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KC 2.2. S^ 

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Unrepfesented in Malor/s 
**Mortc cTArthw^ 

!Kj> I 

Siit <Baioain ant Hit 

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sir 6au)aln ana tbe 6reeti Ktilgbt 

A Middle-English Arthurian Romance 
Retold in Modern Prose^ with Introduce 
tion & Notes^ by Jessie L. Weston, 
T'rans/ator of Wolfram von Eschen- 
bach's " Parzivar' J^ With Designs by 
M. M. Crawford J^ J^ J^ J^ 

London : David Nutt at the Sign of 

The Phcenix, Long Acre 


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K t 2.2.5^ 

J''''(jj,. />(i'-<c C^. / 'tf'f'.'r 

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^tefdce fo f itef <Ebifion 

The poem of which the following pages 
o£fer a prose rendering is contained in a 
MS., believed to be unique, of the Cot- 
tonian Collection, Nero A. X., preserved 
4n the British Museum. The MS. is of 
the end of the fourteenth century, but it 
is possible that the composition of the 
poem is somewhat earlier; the subject- 
matter is certainly of very old date. 
There has been a considerable divergence 
of opinion among scholars on the ques- 
tion of authorship, but the view now 
generally accepted is that it is the work 
of the same hand as Pearly another poem 

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vi ^tefdce to f itef <Bbifion 

of considerable merit contained in the 
same MS. 

Our poem, or, to speak more correctly, 
metrical romance, contains over 2500 lines, 
and is composed in staves of varying length, 
ending in iive short rhyming lines, techni- 
cally known as a bob and a wheel, — the 
lines forming the body of the stave being 
not rhyming, but alliterative. The dialect 
in which it is written has been decided to 
be West Midland, probably Lancashire, 
and is by no means easy to imderstand. 
Indeed, it is the real difficulty and obscurity 
of the language, which, in spite of careful 
and scholarly editing, will always place the 
poem in its original form outside the range 
of any but professed students of mediaeval 
literature, which has encouraged me to make 
an attempt to render it more accessible to 
the general public, by giving it a form that 
shall be easily intelligible, and at the same 
time preserve as closely as possible the style 
of the author. 

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^tefdce f f itef Clifton vii 

For that style, in spite of a certain rough- 
ness, unavoidable at a period in which the 
language was still in a partially developed 
and amorphous stage, is really charming. 
The author has a keen eye for effect ; 
a talent for description, detailed without 
becoming wearisome j a genuine love of 
Nature and sympathy with her varying 
moods ; and a real refinement and elevation 
of feeling which enable him to deal with a 
risqui situation with an absence of coarse- 
ness, not, unfortimately, to be always met 
with in a mediaeval writer. Standards of 
taste vary with the age, but even judged 
by that of our own day the author of Sir 
Gawain and the Green Knight comes not 
all too badly out of the ordeal ! 

The story with which the poem deals, 
too, has claims upon our interest. I have 
shown elsewhere* that the beheading 
challenge is an incident of very early 

* " The Legend of Sir Gawain," Grimm Library, Vol. 
VII. (Chapter IX. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight). 

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^^i ^teface fo f itef <Ebifion 

occurrence in heroic legend, and that the 
particular form given to it in the English 
poem is especially interesting, correspond- 
ing as it does to the variations of the story 
as preserved in the oldest known version, 
that of the old Irish Fled Bricrend. 

But in no other version is the incident 
coupled with that of a temptation and 
testing of the hero's honour and chastity, 
such as meets us here. At first sight one 
is inclined to assign the episode of the lady 
of the castle to the class of stories of which 
the oldest version is preserved in Biblical 
record — the story of Joseph and Potiphar's 
wife ; a motif not unseldom employed by 
mediaeval writers, and which notably occurs 
in what we may call the Launfal group 
of stories. But there are certain points 
which may make us hesitate as to whether 
in its first conception the tale was really 
one (^ this class. 

It must be noted that here the lady is 
acting throughout with the knowledge and 

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(preface to f itet <EMtion ix 

consent of the husband, an important point 
of difference. In the second place, it is 
very doubtful whether her entire attitude 
was not a ruse. From the Green Knight's 
words to Gawain when he finally reveals 
himself, " I wot we shall soon make peace 
with my wife, who was thy bitter enemy," 
her conduct hardly seems to have been 
prompted by real passion. 

In my Studies on the Legend of Sir 
Gawain^ already referred to, I have sug- 
gested that the character of the lady here 
is, perhaps, a reminiscence of that of the 
Queen of theMagic Castle or Isle, daughter 
or niece of an enchanter, who at an early 
stage of Gawain's story was undoubtedly 
his love. I think it not impossible that 
she was an integral part of the tale as first 
told, and her rile here was determined by 
that which she originally played. In most 
versions of the story she has dropped out 
altogether. It is, of course, possible that, 
there being but a confused reminiscence of 

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^ preface to f itet (Sbifion 

the original tale, her share may have been 
modiiied by the influence of the Launfal 
group ; but I should prefer to explain the 
episode on the whole as a somewhat dis- 
torted survival of an original feature. 

But in any case we may be thankful for 
this, that the author of the most important 
English metrical romance dealing with 
Arthurian legend faithfully adheres to the 
original conception of Gawain's character, 
as drawn before the monkish lovers of 
edification laid their ruthless hands on his 
legend, and turned the model of knightly 
virtues and courtesy into a mere vulgar 

Brave, chivalrous, loyally faithful to his 
plighted word, scrupulously heedful of his 
own and others' honour, Gawain stands 
before us in this poem. We take up 
Malory or Tennyson, and in spite of their 
charm of style, in spite of the halo of 
religious mysticism in which they have 
striven to enwrap their characters, we lay 

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preface <o f itef (B^iiion xi 

them down with a feeling of dissatisfaction. 
How did the Gawain of their imagination, 
this empty*headed, empty-hearted world- 
ling, cruel murderer, and treacherous 
friend, ever come to be the typical English 
hero ? For such Gawain certainly was, 
even more than Arthur himself. Then 
we turn back to these faded pages, and 
read the quaintly earnest words in which 
the old writer reveals the hidden meaning 
of that mystic symbol, the pentangle, and 
vindicates Gawain's title to claim it as his 
badge — and we smile, perhaps, but we 
cease to wonder at the widespread popu- 
larity of King Arthur's famous nephew, 
or at the immense body of romance that 
claims him as its hero. 

Scholars know all this, of course ; they 
can read the poem for themselves in its 
original rough and intricate phraseology ; 
perhaps they will be shocked at an attempt 
to handle it in simpler form. But this 
little book is not for them, and if to those 

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xii (preface io f irei S^iiion 

to whom the tale would otherwise be a 
sealed treasure these pages bring some 
new knowledge of the way in which our 
forefathers looked on the characters of the 
Arthurian legend, the tales they told of 
them (unconsciously betraying the while 
how they themselves lived and thought 
and spoke) — if by that means they gain a 
keener appreciation of oiu* national heroes, 
a wider knowledge of our national litera- 
ture, — then the spirit of the long-dead 
poet will doubtless not be the slowest to 
pardon my handling of what was his 
masterpiece, as it is, in M. Gaston Paris* 
words, "The jewel of English mediaeval 


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(|)teface io Second dSMiion 

In preparing this Second Edition I have 
adopted certain suggestions of the late 
Professor K5lbing, contained in a review 
published by him in Englische Studien xxvi. 
In one or two instances, however, I have 
not felt free to follow his reading — e.g,^ on 
page 67, in \rynne sy^e must certainly mean 
^for the third time^'' not ^^ thrice.'' The lady 
has already kissed Gawain twice during 
the interview ; Professor Kslbing's sugges- 
tion would make him receive five kisses, 
instead of three, the correct number. Nor 
do I think the story would gain anything 
by reproducing the details of the dissection 

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xiv preface to Second ^Uiion 

of animals on page 46. This little series is 
not intended for scholars, who can study 
the original works for themselves, but for 
the general public, and I have therefore 
avoided any digression from the main 
thread of the story. In the main, however, 
I have gladly availed myself of the late 
Professor's learned criticisms. 


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Of the 



the traitor tried for his treason, the noble 
iEneas and his kin sailed forth to become 
princes and patrons of well-nigh all the 
Western Isles. Thus Romulus built Rome 
(and gave to the city his own name, which 
It bears even to this day) ; and Ticius 
turned him to Tuscany; and Langobard 
raised him up dwellings in Lombardy ; 
and Felix Brutus sailed far over the 
French flood, and founded the kingdom 
of Britain, wherein have been war and 
waste and wonder, and bliss and bale, oft- 
times since. 

And in that kingdom of Britain have 
been wrought more gallant deeds than in 

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any other ; but of all British kings Arthur 
was the most valiant, as I have heard tell, 
therefore will I set forth a wondrous adven- 
ture that fell out in his time^ And if ye 
will listen to me, but for a little while, I 
will tell it even as it stands in story stiff 
and strong, fixed in the letter, as it hath 
long been known in the land. 

HowAi*' King Arthur lay at Camelot upon a 
^Ah^ Christmas-tide, with many a gallant lord 
at Gune- and lovely lady, and all the noble brother- 
lot hood of the Round Table. There they 
held rich revels with gay talk and jest ; 
one while they would ride forth to joust 
and tourney, and again back to the court 
to make carols ; * for there was the feast 
holden fifteen days with all the mirth that 
men could devise, song and glee, glorious 
to hear, in the daytime, ana dancing at 
night. Halls and chambers were crowded 
with noble guests, the bravest of knights 
and the loveliest of ladies, and Ardiur 
himself was the comeliest king that ever 
held a court. For all this fair folk were in 
their youth, the direst and mos.t fortunate 

* Dance actompaiued^by song: Ofteil mtedtfned ih 
oU romancett 

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i9e <B^reen (ginit^i 3 

under heaven, and the king himself of such 
fame that it were hard now to name so 
valiant a hero. 

Now the New Year had but newly come New 
in, and on that day a double portion was ^^ 
served on the high table to all the noble 
guests, and thither came the king with all 
bis knights, when the service in the chapel 
had been sung to an end. And they 
greeted each other for the New Year, and 
gave rich gifts, the one to the other (and 
they that received them were not wroth, 
that may ye well believe !), and the maidens 
laughed and made mirth till it was time to 
get them to meat. Then they washed and 
sat them down to the feast in fitting rank 
and order, and Guinevere the queen, gaily 
dad, sat on the high daTs. Silken was her 
seat, with a fair canopy over her head, of 
rich tapestries of Tars, embroidered, and 
studded with costly gems ; fair she was to 
look upon, with her shining grey eyes, a 
fairer woman might no man boast himself 
of havinc; seen. 

But Arthur would not eat till all were 
served, so full of joy and gladness was he, 
even as a child ; he liked not either to lie 
long, or to sit long at meat, so worked 

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4 Skit Camt^in and 

upon him his young blood and his wild 
brain. And another custom he had also^ 
that came of his nobility, that he would 
never eat upon an high dav till he had 
been advised of some l^nightly deed, or 
some strange and marvellous tale, of his 
ancestors, or of arms, or of other ventures. 
Or till some stranger knight should seek 
of him leave to joust with one of the 
Round Table, that they might set their 
lives in jeopardy, one against another, as 
fortune might favour them. Such was the 
king's custom when he sat in hall at each 
high feast with his noble knights, therefore 
on that New Year tide, he abode, fair of 
face, on the throne, and made much mirth 
Of the Thus the king sat before the high tables, 
noble and spake of many things ; and there good 
^"^^^ Sir Gawain was seated by Guinevere the 
present queen, and on her other side sat Agravain, 
i la dure main ; both were the king's sister's 
sons and fiill gaUant knights. And at the 
end of the table was Bishop Bawdewyn, 
and Ywain, King Urien's son, sat at the 
other side alone. These were worthily 
served on the dafe, and at the lower tables 
sat many valiant knights. Then they bare 

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t9e Street! ($nit9t S 

the first course with the blast of trumpets 
and waving of banners, with the sound of 
drums and pipes, of sone and lute, that 
many a heart was uplifted at the melody. ' 
Many were the diainties, and rare the 
meats, so great was the plenty they might 
scarce find room on the board to set on 
the dishes. Each helped himself as he 
liked best, and to each two were twelve 
dishes, with great plenty of beer and 

Now I will say no more of the service. The com' 
but that ye may know there was no lack, ^^ ^' ^^ 
for there drew near a ventiu'e that the folk Knight 
might well have left their labour to gaze 
upon. As the sound of the music ceased, 
and the first course had been fitly served, 
there came in at the hall door one terrible 
to behold, of stature greater than any on 
earth ; fi-om neck to loin so strong and 
thickly made, and with limbs so long and 
so great that he seemed even as a giant. 
And yet he was but a man, only the 
mightiest that might mount a steed ; broad 
of chest and shoulders and slender of waist, 
and all his features of like fashion ; but men 
marvelled much at his colour, for he rode 
even as a knight, yet was green all over. 

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^ Skit <B^afoain unb 

The lash' For he was clad all in green, with a 

^^^^k^ht 5^8^^^ ^^^ ^^^ * mantle above ; all 
^^ decked and lined with fur was the doth 
and the hood that was thrown back from 
his locks and lay on his shoulders. Hose 
had he of the same green, and spurs of 
bright gold with silken fastenings richly 
worked ; and all his vesture was verily 
green. Around his waist and his saddle 
were bands with fair stones set upon silken 
work, 'twere too long to tell of all the trifles 
that were embroidered thereon — birds and 
insects in gay gauds of green and gold. 
Of the All the trappings of his steed were of metal 
^^tcS ^^ ^^^^ ename^ even the stirrups that he 
stood in stained of the same, and stirrups 
and saddle-bow alike eleamed and shone 
with green stones. Even the steed on 
which he rode was of the same hue, a green 
horse, great and strong, and hard to hold, 
with broidered bridle, meet for the rider. 

The knight was thus gaily dressed in 
green, his hair falling around his shoulders, 
on his breast hung a beard, as thick and 
green as a bush, and the beard and the hair 
of his head were clipped all round above his 
elbows. The lower part of his sleeves 
were fastened with clasps in the same wise 

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i9c Cteen (S^ni^^i 7 

as a king's mantle. The horse's mane 
was crisp and plaited with many a knot 
folded in with gold thread about the fair 
green, here a twist of the hair, here another 
of gold. The tail was twined in like 
manner, and both were boimd about with 
a band of bright green set with many a 
precious stone; then they were tied aloft 
in a cunning knot, whereon rang many 
bells of burnished gold. Such a steed 
might no other ride, nor had such ever 
been looked upon in that hall ere that time; 
and all who saw that knight spake and said 
that a man might scarce abide his stroke. 

The knight bore no helm nor hauberk, The atm- 
neither gorget nor breast-plate, neither J^ ^*^^ 
shaft nor buckler to smite nor to shield, but 
in one hand he had a holly-bough, that is 
greenest when the groves are bare, and in 
his other an axe, huge and uncomely, a 
cruel weapon in fashion, if one would 
, picture it. The head was an ell-yard long, 
the metal all of green steel and gold, the 
blade burnished bright, with a broad edge, 
as well shapen to shear as a sharp razor. 
The steel was set into a strong staff, all 
bound round with iron, even to the ehd, 
and engraved with green in cunning work. 

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A lace was twined about it» that looped at 
the head, and all adown the handle it was 
clasped with tassels on buttons of bright 
green richly broidered. 

The knight rideth through the entrance 
of the hall, driving straight to the high 
daTs, and greeted no man, but looked ever 
upwards ; and the first words he spake 
were, '* Where is the ruler of this folk ? I 
would gladly look upon that hero, and have 
speech with him.'' He cast his eyes on 
the knights, and mustered them up and 
down, striving ever to see who of them 
was of most renown. 

Then was there great gazing to behold 
that chief, for each man marvelled what it 
might mean that a knight and his steed 
should have even such a hue as the green 
grass; and that seemed even greener than 
green enamel on bright gold. All looked 
on him as he stood, and drew near unto 
him wondering greatly what he might be ; 
for many marvels had they seen, but none 
such as this, and phantasm and faSrie did 
the folk deem it. Therefore were the 
gallant knights slow to answer, and gazed 
astounded, and sat stone still in a deep 
silence through that goodly hall, as if a 

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i9e (Kteen (ginia^i 9 

slumber were ^len upon them. I deem it 
was not all for doubt, but some for 
courtesy that they might give ear unto 
his errand. 

Then Arthur beheld this adventurer be- 
fore his high dalts, and knightly he greeted 
him, for fearful was he never. " Sir," he 
said, ^^thou art welcome to this place — 
lord of this hall am I, and men call me 
Arthur. Light thee down, and tarry 
awhile, and what thy will is, that shall we 
learn after.** 

"Nay,** quoth the stranger, "so help q! the 
me He that sitteth on high, *twas not knight's 
mine errand to tarry any while in this ^^^^"8^^ 
dwelling ; but the praise of this thy folk 
and thy city is lifted up on high, and thy 
warriors are holden for the b^t and the 
most valiant of those who ride mail-clad to 
the fight. The wisest and the worthiest 
of this world are they, and well proven in 
all knightly sports. And here, as I have 
heard tell, is fairest courtesy, therefore 
have I come hither as at this time. Ye 
may be sure by the branch that I bear 
here that I come in peace, seeking no 
strife. For had I willed to journey in 
warlike guise I have at home both 

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hauberk and helm, shield and shining 
spear, and other weapons to mine hand^ 
but since I seek no war my raiment is 
that of peace. But if thou pe as bold as 
all men tell thou wilt freely grant me the 
boon I ask." 

And Arthur answered, " Sir Knight, if 
thou cravest battle here thou shalt not hi\ 
for lack of a foe.** 

And the knight answered, " Nay, I ask 
no fight, in faith here on the benches are 
but beardless children, were I clad in 
armour on my steed there is no man here 
might matc^h me. Therefore I ask in this 
court but a Christmas jest, for that it is 
Yule-tide, and New Year, and there are 
here many fain for sport. If any one in 
this hall holds himself so hardy, so bold both 
of blood and brain, as to dare strike me one 
stroke for another, I will give him as a gift 
this axe, which is heavy enough, in sooth, 
to handle as he may list, and I will abide 
the first blow, unarmed as I sit. If any 
knight be so bold as to prove my words let 
him come swiftly to me here, and take this 
weapon, I quit claim to it, he may keep it 
as his own, and I will abide his stroke, firm 
on the floor. Then shalt thou give me the 

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right to deal him another, the respite of a 
year and a day shall he have. Now haste, 
and let see whether any here dare say 

Now if the knights had been astounded The sij 
at the first, yet stiller were they all, high ^^^ ®* 
and low, when they had heard his woras. knights 
The knight on his steed straightened him- 
self in the saddle, and rolled his eyes fiercely 
round the hall, red they gleamea under his 
green and bushy brows. He frowned and 
twisted his beard, waiting to see who should 
rise, and when none answered he cried 
aloud in mockery, ** What, is this Arthur's 
hall, and these the knights whose renown 
hath run through many realms ? Where 
are now your pride and your conquests, 
your wrath, and anger, ana mighty words? 
Now are the praise and the renown of the 
Round Table overthrown by one man's 
speech, since all keep silence for dread ere 
ever they have seen a blow ! " 

With that he laughed so loudly that the 
blood rushed to the king's feir face for very 
shame; he waxed wroth, as did all his 
knights, and sprang to his feet, and drew 
near to the stranger and said, "Now by 
heaven foolish is thy asking, and thy folly 

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shall find its fitting answer. I know no man 

aghast at thy great words. Give me here 

thine axe and I shall grant thee the boon 

thou hast asked." Lightly he sprang to 

him and caught at his hand, and the 

knight, fierce of aspect, lighted down from 

his charger. 

Then Arthur took the axe and gripped 

the haft, and swimg it round, r^y to 

strike. And the knight stood before him, 

taller by the head than any in the hall ; 

he stood, and stroked his beard, and drew 

down his coat, no more dismayed for the 

king's threats than if one had brought him 

a drink of wine. 

How Sir Then Gawain, who sat by the queen, 

Gawabi leaned forward to the king and spake, ** I 
dafed the ■ i i i i • • i 

venture beseech ye, my lord, let this venture be 

mine. Would ye but bid me rise from 

this seat, and stand by your side, so that 

my liege lady thought it not ill, then 

would I come to your counsel before this 

goodly court. For I think it not seemly 

when such challenges . be made in your 

hall that ye yourself should undertake it, 

while there are many bold knights who sit 

beside ye, none are there, methinks, of 

readier will under heaven, or more valiant 

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t$e ^tetn ($n%i9i 13 

in open field. I am the weakest, I wot, 
and the feeblest of wit, and it will be the 
less loss of my life if ye seek sooth. For 
save that ye are mine uncle naught is there 
in me to praise, no virtue is there in my 
body save your blood, and since this 
challenge is such folly that it beseems ye 
not to take it, and I have asked it from 
ye first, let it fidl to me, and if I bear 
myself un&;allantly then let all this court 
blame me. 

Then they all spake with one voice that 
the king should leave this venture and grant 
it to Gawain. 

Then Arthur commanded the knight to 
rise, and he rose up quickly and knelt 
down before the king, and caught hold of 
the weapon ; and the king loosed his hold 
of it, and lifted up his hand, and gave him 
his blessing, and bade him be strong both 
of heart and hand. **Keep thee well, 
nephew,** quoth Arthur, " that thou give 
him but the one blow, and if thou redest 
him rightly I trow thou shalt well abide 
the stroke ne may give thee after.** 

Gbwain stepped to the stranger, axe in Themak" 
hand, and he, never fearing, awaited hi$*«^o*the 
coming. Then the Green Knight spake '^^*'^''* 

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to Sir' Gawain, ^^ Make we our covenant 
ere we go further. First, I ask thee, 
knight, what is thy name ? Tell me truly, 
that I may know thee.'' 

" In faith," quoth the good knight, 
^^ Gawain am I, who give thee this bulet, 
let what may come of it ; and at this time 
twelvemonth will I take another at thine 
hand with whatsoever weapon thou wilt, 
and none other.** 

Then the other answered again, ^^Sir 
Gawain, so may I thrive as I am fain to 
take this bu£kt at thine hand,** and he 
quoth further, ^^Sir Gawain, it liketh me 
well that I shall take at thv fist that 
which I have asked here, ana thou hast 
readily and truly rehearsed all the covenant 
that I asked of the king, save that thou 
shalt swear me, by thy troth, to seek 
me thyself wherever thou hopest that I 
may be found, and win thee such reward 
as thou dealest me to-day, before this 

"Where shall I seek thee?" quoth 
Gawain. ** Where is thy place ? By Him 
that made me, I wot never where thou 
dwellest, nor know I thee, knight, thy 
court, nor thy name. But teach me truly 

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i^e ^teen (^nig^t 15 

all that pertaineth thereto, and tell me thy 
name, and I shall use all my wit to win 
my way thither, and that I swear thee for 
sooth, and by my siire troth.** 

" That is enough in the New Year, it 
needs no more," quoth the Green Knight 
to the gallant Gawain, ^^if I tell thee 
truly when I have taken the blow, and 
thou hast smitten me; then will I teach 
thee of my house and home, and mine 
own name, then mayest thou ask thy road 
and keep covenant* And if I waste no 
words then farest thou the better, for thou 
canst dwell in thy land, and seek no 
further. But take now thy toll, and let 
see how thy strikest." 

"Gladly will V* quoth Gawain, hand- 
ling his axe. 

Then the Green Knight swiftly made The giv 
him ready, he bowed down his head, and ^^*^ 
laid his long locks on the crown that his 
bare neck might be seen. Gawain gripped 
his axe and raised it on high, the left foot 
he set forward on the floor, and let the 
blow fall lightly on the bare neck. The 
sharp edge of the blade sundered the 
bones, smote through the neck^ and clave 
it in two, so that the edge of the steel bit 

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i6 Jlit 0ai9ain ant 

on the ground, and the fair head fell to the 
earth that many struck it with their feet 
as it rolled forth. The blood spiu-ted forth, 
and glistened on the green raiment, but 
the knight neither faltered nor fell; he 
The maf' started fcM-ward with out-stretched hand, 
^*^Q^^and caught the head, and lifted it up; then 
Knight he turned to his steed, and took hold of 
the 'bride, set his foot in the stirrup, and 
mounted. His head he held by the hair, 
in his hand. Then he seated himself in 
his saddle as if naught ailed him, and he 
were not headless. He turned his steed 
about, the grim corpse bleeding freely the 
while, and they who looked upon him 
doubted them much for the covenant. 

For he held up the head in his hand, 
and turned the face towards them that sat 
on the high daTs, and it lifted up the eye- 
lids and looked upon them and spake as 
ye shall hear. ^^ Look, Gawain, that thou 
art ready to go as thou hast promised, and 
seek leally till thou find me, even as thou 
hast sworn in this hall in the hearing or 
these knights. Come thou, I charge thee, 
to the Green Chapel, such a stroke as thou 
hast dealt thou hast deserved, and it shall 
be promptly paid thee on New Yearns morn. 

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Many men know me as the knight of the 
Green Chapel^ and if thou askest, thou 
shalt not fail to find me. Therefore it 
behoves thee to come, or to yield thee as 

With that he turned his bridle, and 
galloped out at the hall door, his head in 
his hands, so that the sparks flew from 
beneath his horse's hoofs. Whither he 
went none knew, no more than they 
wist whence he had come ; and the king 
and Gawain they gazed and laughed, 
for in sooth this had proved a greater 
marvel than any they had known afore- 

Though Arthur the king was astonished 
at his heart, yet he let no sign of it be 
seen, but spake in courteous wise to the 
fair queen : ^ Dear lady, be not dismayed, 
such craft is well suited to Christmas-tide 
when we seek jesting, laughter and song, 
and fair carols of knights and ladies. But 
now I may well get me to meat, for I 
have seen a marvel I may not forget." 
Then he looked on Sir Gawain, and said 
gaily, ** Now, fair nephew, hang up thine 
axe, since it has hewn enough, and they 
hung it on the dossal above the dais, 


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1 8 §kxt ^B^npain dnb 

where all men might look on it for a 
marvel, and by its true tc^en tell of the 
wonder. Then the twain sat them down 
together, the kin^ and the good knight, 
and men served them with a double por- 
tion, as was the share of the noblest, with 
all manner of meat and of minstrelsy. 
And they spent that day in gladness, but 
Sir Gawain must well bethink him of 
the heavy ventiu'e to which he had set 
his hand. 

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t9e ^tttn dtnift^f 

talcs, though his words were few when he 
sat at the feast. But now had they stern 
work on hand. Gawain was glad to begin 
the jest in the hall, but ye need have no 
marvel if the end be heavy. For though a 
man be merry in mind when he has well 
drunk, yet a year runs fiill swiftly, and the 
beginning but rarely matches the end. 

r or Yule was now over-past, and the The wa^ 
year after, each season in its turn following JjJ^^^ 
the other. For after Christmas comes 
crabbed Lent, that will have fish for flesh 
and simpler cheer. But then the weather 
of the world chides with winter ; the cold 
withdraws itself, the clouds uplift, and the 

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rain falls in warm showers on the fair 
plains. Then the flowers come forth, 
meadows and grove are clad in green, the 
birds make ready to build, and sing sweetly 
for solace of the soft summer that follows 
thereafter. The blossoms bud and blow 
in the hedgerows rich and rank, and noble 
notes enough are heard in the fair woods. 

After the season of summer, with the 
soft winds, when zephyr breathes lightly 
on seeds and herbs, joyous indeed is the 
erowth that waxes thereout when the dew 
drips from the leaves beneath the blissful 
glance of the bright sun. But then comes 
harvest and hardens the grain, warning 
it to wax ripe ere the winter. The drought 
drives the dust on high, flying over the 
face of the land ; the angry wind of the 
welkin wrestles with the sun ; the leaves 
fall from the trees and light upon the 
ground, and all brown are the groves that 
but now were green, and ripe is the fruit 
that once was flower. So the year passes 
into manv yesterdays, and winter comes 
again, as it needs no sage to tell us. 

When the Michaelmas moon was come 
in with warnings of winter. Sir Gawain 
bethought him full oft of his perilous 

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f 9e ^tetn dtnig^f 21 

journey. Yet till All Hallows Day heSlrGa- 
lingered with Arthur, and on that ^^7 2^^' 
they made a great feast for the hero's sake, him of his 
with much revel and richness of the Round covenant 
Table. Courteous knights and comely 
ladies, all were in sorrow for the love of 
that knight, and though thev spake no 
word of it, many were joyless for his 

And after meat, sadly Sir Gawain turned 
to his uncle, and spake of his journey, and 
said, ** Liege lord of my life, leave from you 
I crave. Ye know well how the matter 
stands without more words, to-morrow am 
I bound to set forth in search of the Green 

Then came together all the noblest 
knights, Y wain and £rec,and many another. 
Sir Dodinel le Sauvage, the Duke of 
Clarence, Laimcelot and Lionel, and Lucan 
the Good, Sir Bors and Sir Bcdivere, 
valiant knights both, and many another 
hero, with Sir Mador de la Porte, and they 
all drew near, heavy at heart, to take 
counsel with Sir Gawain. Much sorrow 
and weeping was there in the hall to think 
that so worthy a knight as Gawain should 
wend his way to seek a deadly blow, and 

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22 g^it ^aroain an^ 

should no more wield his sword in fight. 
But the knight made ever good cheer, and 
said, ** Nay, wherefore should I shrink ? 
What may a man do but prove his fete ? " 
The arm' He dwelt there all that day, and on the 
*^®^^morn he arose and asked betimes for his 
armour ; and they brought it unto him on 
this wise : first, a rich carpet was stretched 
on the floor (and brightly did the gold gear 
glitter upon it), then the knight stepped 
on to it, and handled the steel ; clad he was 
in a doublet of silk, with a close hood, lined 
fairly throughout. Then they set the steel 
shoes upon his feet, and wrapped his legs 
with greaves, with polished knee-caps, 
fastened with knots of gold. Then they 
cased his thighs in cuisses closed with 
thongs, and brought him the byrny of 
bright steel rings sewn upon a fair stuff. 
Well burnished braces they set on each arm 
with good elbow-pieces, and gloves of mail, 
and all the goodly gear that should shield 
him in his need. And they cast over all 
a rich surcoat, and set the golden spurs on 
his heels, and girt him with a trusty sword 
fastened with a silken bawdrick. When he 
was thus clad his harness was costly, for 
the least loop or latchet gleamed with gold. 

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So armed as he was he hearkened Mass and 
made his offering at the high altar. Then 
he came to the king, and the knights of his 
court, and courteously took leave of lords 
and ladies, and they kissed him, and com- 
mended him to Christ. 

With that was Gringalet ready, girt 
with a saddle that gleamed gaily with many 
golden fringes, enriched and decked anew for 
the ventixre. The bridle was all barred 
about with bright gold buttons, and all the 
covertures and trappings or the steed, the 
crupper and the rich skirts, accorded with 
the saddle; spread fair with the rich red 
gold that glittered and gleamed in the rays 
of the sun. 

Then the knieht called for his helmet, 
which was well lined throughout, and set 
it high on his head, and hasped it behind. 
He wore a light kerchief over the vintail, 
that was broidered and studded with fair 
gems on a broad silken ribbon, with birds 
of gav colour, and many a turtle and true- 
lover s knot interlaced thickly, even as 
many a maiden had wrought dilieently for 
seven winter long. But the cirdet which 
crowned his helmet was yet more precious, 
being adorned with a device in diamonds. 

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24 gkit ^aroain an) 

WhefC' Then they brought him his shield, which 
^^^^'was of bright red, with the pentangk 
bare the P^''^^^ thereon in gleaming gold. And 
pentangle why that noble prince bare the pentangle 
I am minded to tell you, though my ^e 
tarry thereby. It is a sign that Solomon 
set ere-while, as betokening truth ; for it is 
a fieure with five points and each line 
overhps the other, and nowhere hath it 
beginning or end, so that in English it is 
called ** the endless knot.** And therefore 
was it well suiting to this knight and to 
his arms, since Gawain was faithful in five 
and five-fold, for pure was he as gold, void 
of all villainy and endowed with all virtues. 
Therefore ne bare the pentangle on shield 
and surcoat as truest of heroes and gentlest 
of knights. 

For first he was faultless in his five 
senses ; and his five fingers never failed 
him ; and all his trust upon earth was in 
the five wounds that Christ bare on the 
cross, as the Creed tells. And wherever 
this knight found himself in stress of battle 
he deemed well that he drew his strength 
from the five Joys which the Queen of 
Heaven had of her Child. Ana for this 
cause did he bear an image of Our Lady 

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f9e ^teen (ginie^i 25 

on the one half of his shield, that whenever 
he looked upon it he might not lack for 
aid. And the fifth five that the hero used 
were frankness and fellowship above all, 
purity and courtesy that never failed him, 
and compassion that surpasses all ; and in 
these five virtues was that hero wrapped 
and clothed. And all these, five-fold, were 
linked one in the other, so that they had 
no end, and were fixed on five points that 
never &iled, neither at any side were they 
joined or sundered, nor could ye find 
beginning or end. And therefore on his 
shield was the knot shapen, red-gold upon 
red, which is the pure pentangTe. Now 
was Sir Gawain ready, and he took his 
lance in hand, and bade them all Farewelly 
he deemed it had been for ever. 

Then he ^mote the steed with his spurs, How Sir 
and sprang on his way, so that sparks flew Gawain 
from the stones after him. All that sawj^^ 
him were grieved at heart, and said one to 
the other, " By Christ, *tis great pity that 
one of such noble life should be lost ! V 
faith, 'twere not easy to find his equal upon 
earth. The king had done better to have 
wrought more warily. Yonder knight 
should have been made a duke ; a gallant 

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26 §^it C<i^f0^n anb 

leader of men is he, and such a fate had 
beseemed him better than to be hewn in 
pieces at the will of an elfish man, for mere 
pride. Who ever knew a king to take 
such counsel as to risk his knights on a 
Christmas jest ? " Many were the tears 
that flowed from their eyes when that 
goodly knight rode from the hall. He 
made no delaying, but went his way swiftly, 
and rode many a wild road, as I heard say 
in the book. 
CM Sir So rode Sir Gawain through the realm ot 
^*^**° * Logres, on an errand that he held for no 
jest. Often he lay companionless at night, 
and must lack the fare that he liked. No 
comrade had he save his steed, and none 
save Grod with whom to take counsel. At 
length he drew nigh to North Wales, and 
left the isles of Anglesey on his left hand, 
crossing over the fords by the foreland 
over at Holyhead, till he came into the 
wilderness ot Wirral, where but few dwell 
who love God and man of true heart. 
And ever he asked, as he fared, of all 
whom he met, if they had heard any 
tidings of a Green Knight in the country 
thereabout, or of a Green Chapel ? And 
all answered him, Nay, never in their lives 

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f 9e ^Steen (^nin^i 27 

had they seen any man of such a hue. 
And the knight wended his way by many 
a strange road and many a rugged path, 
and the fashion of nis countenance 
changed full often ere he saw the Green 

Manv a clifF did he climb in that unknown 
land, wnere afar from his friends he rode as 
a stranger. Never did he come to a stream 
or a ford but he found a foe before him, 
and that one so marvellous, so foul and fell, 
that it behoved him to fight. So many 
wonders did that knight behold, that it 
were too long to tell the tenth part of 
them. Sometimes he fought with dragons 
and wolves ; sometimes with wild men that 
dwelt in the rocks; another while with 
bulls, and bears, and wild boars, or with 
giants of the high moorland that drew near 
to him. Had he not been a doughty knight, 
enduring, and of well-proved i^our, and a 
servant of God, doubtless he had been 
slain, for he was oft in daneer of death. 
Yet he cared not so much ror the strife, 
what he deemed worse was when the cold 
clear water was shed from the clouds, and 
froze ere it fell on the fidlow ground. 
More nights than enough he slept in his 

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28 §kit tfawatn an^ 

harness on the bare rocks, near slain with 
the sleet, while the stream leapt bubbling 
from the crest of the hills, and hung in 
hard icicles over his head. 

Thus in peril and pain, and many a 
hardship, the knight rode alone till Christmas 
Eve, and in that tide he made his prayer to 
the Blessed Virgin that she would guide 
his steps and lead him to some dwelling. 
On that morning he rode by a hill, and 
came into a thick forest, wild and drear ; 
on each side were high hills, and thick 
woods below them of great hoar oaks, a 
himdred together, of hazel and hawthorn 
with their trailing boughs intertwined, and 
rough ragged moss spreading everywhere. 
On the iKire twigs the birds chirped pite- 
ously, for pain of the cold. The knight 
upon Gringalet rode lonely beneath them, 
through marsh and mire, much troubled at 
heart lest he should fail to see the service 
of the Lord, who on that self-same night 
was born of a maiden for the cure of our 
grief; and therefore he said, sighing, "I 
beseech Thee, Lord, and Mary Thy gentle 
Mother, for some shelter where I may hear 
Mass, and Thy mattins at morn. This I 
ask meekly, and thereto I pray my Pater- 

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noster, Ave, and Credo." Thus he rode 
praying, and lamenting his misdeeds, and 
he crossed himself, and said, '^May the 
Cross of Christ speed me." 

Now that knight had crossed himself but How Sir 
thrice ere he was aware in the wood of a Gawain 
dwelling within a moat, above a lawn, on a ^^^^J^ie 
mound surrounded by many mighty trees on Christ 
that stood round the moat. 'Twas the"**»Evc 
fairest castle that ever a knight owned ; 
built in a meadow with a park all about it, 
and a spiked palisade, closely driven, that 
enclosed the trees for more tnan two miles. 
The knight was ware of the hold from the 
side, as it shone through the oaks. Then 
he lifted off his helmet, and thanked Christ 
and S. Julian that they had courteously 
granted his prayer, and hearkened to his 
cry. "Now," quoth the knisht, "I be- 
seech ye, grant me fair hostel. Then he 
pricked Gringalet with his golden spurs, 
and rode gaily towards the great gate, and 
came swiftly to the bridge end. 

The bridge was drawn up and the gates 
close shut ; the walls were strong and 
thick, so that they might fear no tempest. 
The knight on his charger abode on the 
bank of the deep double ditch that sur- 

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50 §kit Canain an'b 

rounded the castle. The walls were set 
deep in the water, and rose aloft to a 
wondrous height ; they were of hard hewn 
stone up to the corbels, which were adorned 
beneath the battlements with fsir carvings, 
and turrets set in between with many a 
loophole ; a better barbican Sir Gawain 
had never looked upon. And within he 
beheld the high hall, with its tower and 
many windows with carven cornices, and 
chalk-white chimneys on the turreted roofs 
that shone fiiir in the sun. And every- 
where, thickly scattered on the castle 
battlements, were pinnacles, so many that 
it seemed as if it were all wrought out of 
paper, so white was it. 

The knight on his steed deemed it &ir 
enough, if he might come to be sheltered 
within it to lodge there while that the 
Holy-day lasted. He called aloud, and soon 
there came a porter of kindly countenance, 
who stood on the wall and greeted this 
knight and asked his errand. 

" Good sir," quoth Gawain, " wilt thou 
go mine errand to the high lord of the 
castle, and crave for me lodging ? " 

"Yea, by S. Peter," quoth the porter. 
"In sooth I trow that ye be welcome 

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to dwell here so long as it may like 

Then he went, and came again swiftly, How Sit 
and many folk with him to receive the^*^**° 
knight. They let down the great draw- ^med* 
bridge, and came forth and knelt on their 
knees on the cold earth to give him worthy 
welcome. They held wide open the great 
gates, and courteously he bid them rise, 
and rode over the bridge. Then men 
came to him and held his stirrup while he 
dismounted, and took and stabled his steed. 
There came down knights and squires 
to bring the guest with joy to the hall. 
When he raised his helmet there were many 
to take it from his hand, fain to serve him, 
and they took from him sword and shield. 

Sir Gawain gave good greeting to the 
noble and the mighty men who came to 
do him honour. Clad in his shining 
armour they led him to the hall, where a 
great fire burnt brightly on the floor ; and 
die lord of the household came forth from 
his chamber to meet the hero fitly. He 
spake to the knight, and ^id : '^ Ye are 
welcome to do here as it likes ye. All 
that is here is vour own to have at your 
will and disposal." 

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32 Hit ^Sanain anb 

" Gramercy ! " quote Gawain, " may 
Christ requite ye." 

As friends that were hin each embraced 
the other ; and Gawain looked on the knight 
who greeted him so kindly, and thought 
'twas a bold warrior that owned that burg. 

Of mighty stature he was, and of high 
age ; broad and flowing was his beard, and 
of a bright hue. He was stalwart of limb, 
and strong in his stride, his face fiery red, 
and his speech tree : in sooth he seemed one 
well fitted to be a leader of valiant men. 

Then the lord led Sir Gawain to a 
chamber, and commanded folk to wait 
^pon him, and at his bidding there came 
men enough who brought the guest to a 
fair bower. The bedding was noble, with 
curtains of pure silk wrought with gold, 
and wondrous coverings of fair cloth all 
embroidered. The curtains ran on ropes 
with rings of red gold, and the walls were 
hung with carpets of Orient, and the same 
spread on the floor. There with mirthful 
speeches they took from the guest his 
byrny and all his shining armour, and 
brought him rich robes of the choicest in 
its stead. They were long and flowing, 
and became him well, and when he was 

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i^e titeen (giniq^i 33 

clad in them all who looked on the hero 
thought that surely God had never made a 
fairer knight : he seemed as if he might be 
a prince without peer in the field where 
men strive in battle. 

Then before the hearth-place, whereon 
the fire burned, they made ready a chair 
for Gawain, hung about with cloth and 
fair cushions ; and there they cast around 
him a mantle of brown samite, richly 
embroidered and furred within with costly 
skins of ermine, with a hood of the same, 
and he seated himself in that rich seat, and 
warmed himself at the fire, and was cheered 
at heart. And while he sat thus the 
serving men set up a table on trestles, and 
covered it with a fair white cloth, and set 
thereon salt-cellar, and napkin, and silver 
spoons ; and the knight washed at his will, 
and set him down to meat. 

The folk served him courteously with 
man^ dishes seasoned of the best, a double 
portion. All kinds of fish were there, 
some baked in bread, some broiled on the 
embers, some sodden, some stewed and 
savoured with spices, with all sorts of 
cunning devices to his taste. And often 
he called it a feast, when they spake gaily 


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34 ikit ^Ban<iin attb 

to him all together, and said, ** Now take 
ye this penance, and it shall be for your 
amendment.*' Much mirth thereof did Sir 
Gawain m^e. 
SlrGa' Then they questioned that prince 
^^*J*^ courteously of whence he came ; and he 
^**"*told them that he was of the court of 
Arthur, who is the rich royal King of the 
Round Table, and that it was Gawain 
himself who was within their walls, and 
would keep Christmas with them, as the 
chance had fallen out. And when the 
lord of the castle heard those tidings he 
laughed aloud for gladness, and all men in 
that keep were joyful that they should be 
in the company of him to whom belonged 
all fame, and valour, and courtesy, and 
whose honour was praised above that of all 
men on earth. Each said softly to his 
fellow, " Now shall we see coiuteous bear- 
ing, and the manner of speech befitting 
courts. What charm lieth in gentle speech 
shall we learn without asking, since here 
we have welcomed the fine father of 
courtesy. God has surely shewn us His 
grace since He sends us such a guest as 
Gawain I When men shall sit and sing, 
blithe for Christ's birth, this knight shall 

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f9e Ctetn (ginxQ^i 35 

bring us to the knowledge of fair manners, 
and it may be that hearing him we may 
learn the cunning speech of love." 

By the time the knight had risen from 
dinner it was near nightfall. Then chap- 
lains took their way to the chapel, and 
rang loudly, even as they should, for the 
solemn evensong of the high feast. Thither 
went the'lord, and the lady also, and entered 
with her maidens into a comdv closet, and 
thither also went Gawain. Then the lord 
took him by the sleeve and led him to a 
seat, and called him by his name, and told 
him he was of all men in the world the 
most welcome. And Sir Gawain thanked 
him truly, and each kissed the other, and 
they sat gravely together throughout the 

Then was the lady fain to look upon The lady 
that knight; and she came forth from her^*^ 
closet with many fair maidens. The fairest ^** 
of ladies was she in face, and figure, and 
colouring, fairer even than Guinevere, so 
the knight thought. She came through 
the chancel to greet the herou another lady 
held her by the left hand, cider than she, 
and seemingly of high estate, with many 
nobles about her. But unlike to look upon 

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36 §kit ^anain anb 

were those ladies, for if the younger were 
fair, the elder was yellow. Rich red were 
the cheeks of the one, rough and wrinkled 
those of the other ; the kerchiefs of the 
one were broidered with many glistening 
pearls, her throat and neck hare, and 
whiter than the snow that lies on the hills; 
the neck of the other was swathed in a 
gorget, with a white wimple over her black 
chin. Her forehead was wrapped in silk 
with many folds, worked with knots, so 
that naugfit of her was seen save her black 
brows, her eyes, her nose, and her lips, 
and those were bleared, and ill to look 
upon. A worshipful lady in sooth one 
might call her! In figure was she short 
and broad, and thickly made — far fairer to 
behold was she whom she led by the hand. 
When Gawain beheld that fidr lady, who 
looked at him graciously, with leave of the 
lord he went towards them, and, bowing 
low, he greeted the elder, but the younger 
and fairer he took lightly in his arms, and 
kissed her courteously, and greeted her in 
knightly wise. Then she hailed him as 
friend, and he quickly prayed to be counted 
as her servant, if she so willed. Then they 
took hifh between them| and talking, led 

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him to the chamber, to the hearth, and 
bade them bring spices, and they brought 
them in plenty with the good wine that 
was wont to be drunk at such seasons. 
Then the lord sprang to his feet and bade 
them make merry, and took off his hood, 
and hung it on a spear, and bade him win 
the worship thereof who should make most 
mirth that Christmas-tide. '^ And I shall 
try, by my feith, to fool it with the best, by 
the help of my friends, ere I lose my 
raiment." Thus with Miy words the lord 
made trial to gladden Uawain with jests 
that night, till it was time to bid them 
light the tapers, and Sir Gawain took leave 
of them and gat him to rest. 

In the morn when all men call to mind Of the 
how Christ our Lord was born on earth to ^^^1^ 
die for us, there is jov, for His sake, in all "*** * 
dwellings of the world ; and so was there 
here on that day. For high feast was held, 
with many dainties and cunningly cooked 
messes. On the daYs sat gallant men, clad 
in their best. The ancient dame sat on 
the high seat, with the lord of the, castle 
beside her. Gawain and the fair lady sat 
together, even in the midst of the board, 
when the feast was served ; and so through- 

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3^ Hit ^anain anb 

out all the hall each sat in his degree, and 

was served in order. There was meat^ 

there was mirth, there was much jov, so 

that to tell thereof would take me too long, 

though peradventure I might strive to 

declare it. But Gawain and that fair lady 

had much joy of each other's company 

through her sweet words and courteous 

converse. And there was music made 

before each prince, trumpets and drums, 

and merry piping; each man hearkened 

his minstrel, and they too hearkened 


How the So thev held high feast that day and the 

'«*»tc^« next, and the third day thereafter, and the 

*°bS Ga- J^y ^^ S. John's Day was fair to hearken, 

wain a' for 'twas the last of the feast and the 

bode at guests would depart in the grev of the 

* * morning. Therefore they awoke early, 

and drank wine, and danced Mr carols, and 

at last, when it was late, each man took his 

leave to wend early on his way. Gawain 

would bid his host farewell, but the lord 

took him by the hand, and led him to his 

own chamber beside the hearth, and there 

he thanked him for the favoiu- he had 

shown him in honouring his dwelling at 

that high season, and gladdening his castle 

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t9e <Bireen (ginii^i 19 

with his fair countenance. ^I wis, sir, 
that while I live I shall be held the worthier 
that Gawain has been my guest at God's 
own feast*' 

"Gramercy, sir," quoth Gawain, "in 

food faith, all the honour is yours, may the 
[igh King give it you, and I am but at 
your will to work your behest, inasmuch as 
I am beholden to you in great and small 
by rights.'* 

Then the lord did his best to persuade the 
knight to tarry with him, but Gawain 
answered that he might in no wise do so. 
Then the host asked him courteously what 
stern behest had driven him at the holy 
season from the king's court, to fare all 
alone, ere yet the feast was ended ? 

"Forsooth," quoth the knight, "ye say 
but the truth : 'tis a high quest and a 
pressing that hath brought me afield, for I 
am summoned myself to a certain place, 
and I know not whither in the world I may 
wend to find it; so help me Christ, I 
would give all the kingdom of Logres an 
I might find it by New Year's morn. 
Therefore, sir, I make request of you that 
ye tell me truly if ye ever heard word of 
the Green Chapel, where it may be found. 

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40 Mit ^an^in anb 

and the Green Knight that keeps it. For 
I am pledged by solemn compact sworn 
between us to meet that knight at the New 
Year if so I were on life ; and of that same 
New Year it wants but little — V feith, I 
would look on that hero morejoyfully than 
on any other fair sight ! Therefore, by 
vour will, it behoves me to leave you, for I 
have but barely three days, and I would as 
fain fall dead as fail of mme errand." 

Then the lord quoth, laughing, '^ Now 
must ye needs stay, for I will show you 
your goal, the Green Chapel, ere your 
term be at an end, have ye no fear ! But 
ye can take vour ease, friend, in your bed, 
till the fourth day, and go fordi on the first 
of the year and come to that place at mid- 
morn to do as ye will. Dwell here till 
New Year's Day, and then rise and set 
forth, and ye shall be set in the way ; 'tis 
not two miles hence.'* 

Then was Gawain glad, and he laughed 
gaily. *' Now I thank you for this above 
all else. Now my quest is achieved I 
will dwell here at your will, and otherwise 
do as ye shall ask." 

Then the lord took him, and set him 
beside him, and badjs the ladies be fetched 

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for their greater pleasure, tho' between 
themselves they had solace. The lord, for 
gladness, made merry Jest, even as one who 
wist not what to do tor joy ; and he cried 
aloud to the knight, ^^ Ye have promised to 
do the thing I bid ye : will ye hold to this 
behest, here, at once i ^ 

^ Yea, forsooth,** said that true knight, 
^ while I abide in your burg I am bound 
by your behest." 

"Ye have travelled from far,** said the 
host, " and since then ye have waked with 
me, ye are not well refreshed by rest and 
sleep, as I know. Ye shall therefore abide 
in your chamber, and lie at your ease to- 
morrow at Mass-tide, and go to meat when 
ye will with my wife, who shall sit with 
you, and comfort you with her company 
till I return ; and 1 shall rise early and go 
forth to the chase." And Gawain agreed 
to all this courteously. 

"Sir knight," quoth the host, "we will SitGa^ 
make a covenant. Whatsoever I win in waki 
the wood shall be yours, and whatever may covenant 
fall to your share, that shall ye exchange for with his 
it. Let us swear, friend, to make this host 
exchange, however our hap may be, for 
worse or for better." 

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4^ Bit €((ii94in anb 

** I grant ve your will,** quoth Gawain 
the eo^ ; ^^ if ye list so to do, it liketh me 

'^ Bring hither the wine--cup, the bargain 
is made/ so said the lord of that castle. 
They laughed each one, and drank of the 
wine, and made merry, these lords and 
ladies, as it pleased them. Then with gay 
talk and merry jest they arose, and stood, 
and spoke softly, and Icissed courteously, 
and took leave or each other. With biu'ning 
torches, and many a serving-man, was each 
led to his couch ; yet ere they gat them to 
bed the old lord oft repeated their covenant, 
for he knew well how to make sport. 

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i^ &tetn (gni^^i 

The first 



and they made them ready, and saddfled the 
steeds, tightened up the girths, and trussed 
up their mails. The knights, all arrayed 
for riding, leapt up lightly, and took their 
bridles, and each rode his way as pleased 
him best. 

The lord of the land was not the last. 
Ready for the chase, with many of his 
men, he ate a sop hastily when he had 
heard Mass, and then with blast of the bugle 
fared forth to the field. He and his nobles 
were to horse ere daylight glimmered upon 
the earth. 

Then the huntsmen coupled their hounds, 
unclosed the kennel door, and called them 

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44 Mix Canain an) 

out They blew three blasts gaily on the 
bugles, the hounds bayed fiercely, and they 
that would go a-hunting checked and chas- 
tised them. A hundred hunters there were 
of the best, so I have heard tell. Then the 
trackers gat them to the trysting-place and 
uncoupled the hounds, and the forest rang 
again with their gay blasts. 

At the first sound of the hunt the game 
quaked for fear, and fled, trembling, along 
the vale. They betook them to the heights, 
but the liers in wait turned them back with 
loud cries ; the harts they let pass them, 
and the stags with their spreading antlers, 
for the lord had forbidden that they should 
be slain, but the hinds and the does they 
turned back, and drave down into the 
valleys. Then might ye see much shooting 
of arrows. As the deer fled under the 
boughs a broad whistling shaft smote and 
wounded each sorely, so that, wounded and 
bleeding, they fell dying on the banks. 
The hounds followed swiftly on their tracks, 
and hunters, blowing the horn, sped after 
them with ringing shouts as if the cliffs 
burst asunder. What game escaped those 
that shot was run down at the outer ring. 
Thus were they driven on the hills, and 

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harassed at the waters, so well did the men 
know their work, and the greyhounds were 
so great and swift that they ran them down 
as fast as the hunters could slay them. 
Thus the lord passed the day in mirth and 
joyfulness, even to nightfall. 

So the lord roamed the woods, and How the 
Gawain, that good night, lay ever a-bed, ^v ^^ 
curtained about, under the costly coverlet, cjmiTto 
while the daylight gleamed on the walls. Sir Ga^ 
And as he lay half slumbering, he heard a ^^*^ 
little sound at the door, and he raised his 
head, and caught back a corner of the 
curtain, and waited to see what it might 
be. It was the lovely lady, the lord's wife ; 
she shut the door softly behind her, and 
turned towards the bed ; and Gawain was 
shamed, laid him down softly and made as 
if he slept. And she came lightly to the 
bedside, within the curtain, and sat herself 
down beside him, to wait till he wakened. 
The knight lay there awhile, and marvelled 
within himself what her coming might 
betoken ; and he said to himself, " 'Twere 
more seemly if I asked her what hath 
brought her hither." Then he made feint 
to waken, and turned towards her, and 
opened his eyes as one astonished, and 

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4^ §kix ^(ii94in 4nb 

crossed himself ; and she looked on him 
laughing, with her cheeks red and white, 
lovely to behold, and small smiling lips. 

^^ Good morrow, Sir Gawain," said that 
fidr lady ; ^^ye are but a careless sleeper, 
since one can enter thus. Now are ye 
taken unawares, and lest ye escape me I 
shall bind you in your bed ; of that be ye 
assured!" Laughing, she spake these words. 

^<Good morrow, fair ladyy^quoth Gawain 
blithely. ^ I will do your will, as it likes 
me well. For I yield me readily, and pray 
your grace, and that is best, by my fiutn, 
since I needs must do so." Thus he jested 
again, laughing. ^^ But an ye would, fair 
lady, grant me this grace that ye pray your 
prisoner to rise. I would get me from bed, 
and array me better, then could I talk with 
ye in more comfort.*' 

"Nay, forsooth, fiur sir,*' quoth the 
lady, "ye shall not rise, I will rede ye 
better. I shall keep ye here, since ye can 
do no other, and talk with my knight 
whom I have captured. For I know well 
that ve are Sir Gawain, whom all the world 
worships,. wheresoever ye may ride. Your 
honour and vour courtesy are praised by 
lords and ladies, by all who live. Now ye 

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i9^ Ctttn (gnii^i 47 

are here and we are alone, my lord and his 
men are afield ; the serving men in their 
beds, and my maidens also, and the door 
shut upon us. And since in this hour I 
have him that all men love, I shall use my 
time well with speech, while it lasts. Ye 
are welcome to my company, for it behoves 
me in sooth to be your servant.'* 

"In good faith," quoth Gawain, "I 
think me that I am not him of whom ye 
speak, for unworthy am I of such service 
as ye here proffer. In sooth, I were glad if 
I might set myself by word or service to 
your pleasure; a pure joy would it be 
to me ! " 

"In good ^th. Sir Gawain," quoth the 
gay lady, " the praise and the prowess that 
pleases all ladies I lack them not, nor hold 
them light; yet are there ladies enough 
who would liever now have the knight in 
their hold, as I have ye here, to dally with 
your courteous words, to bring them com- 
fort and to ease their cares, than much of 
the treasure, and the gold that are theirs. 
And now, through the grace of Him who 
upholds the heavens, I have whoUv in my 
power that which they all desire ! '' 

Thus the lady, hir to look upon. 

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4^ §kit ^4to4in anb 

made him great cheer, and Sir Gawain, 
with modest words, answered her again: 
** Madam," he quoth, ** may Mary requite 
ye, for in good &ith I have found in ye a 
noble frankness. Much courtesy have 
other folk shown me, but the honour they 
have done me is naught to the worship 
of yourself, who knoweth but good.** 

"By Mary," quoth the lady, **I think 
otherwise ; for were I worth all the women 
alive, and had I the wealth of the world in 
my hand, and might choose me a lord to 
my liking, then, for all that I have seen in 
ye. Sir Knight, of beauty and courtesy 
and blithe semblance, and for all that 1 
have hearkened and hold for true, there 
should be no knight on earth to be chosen 
before ye 1 " 

"Well I wot," quoth Sir Gawain, " that 
ye have chosen a better ; but I am proud 
that ye should so prize me, and as your 
servant do I hold ye my sovereign, and 
your knight am I, and may Christ re- 
ward ye." 

So they talked of many matters till mid- 
morn was past, and ever the lady made as 
though she loved him, and the knight 
turned her speech aside. For though she 

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f 9e ^Stten (g^nisl^i 49 

were the brightest of maidens, yet had he 
forborne to shew her love for the danger 
that awaited him, and the blow that must 
be given without delay. 

Then the lady prayed her leave from 
him, and he granted it readily* And she 
have him good-day, with laus;hing glance, 
but he must needs marvel at her words : 

** Now He that speeds fair speech reward 
ye this disport ; but that ye be Gawain my 
mind misdoubts me greatly." 

"Wherefore? " quoth the knight quickly, 
fearing lest he had lacked in some courtesy. 

And the lady spake : "So true a knight 
as Gawain is holden, and one so perfect in 
courtesy, would never have tarried so long 
with a lady but he would of his courtesy 
have craved a kiss at parting." 

Then quoth Gawain, "I wot I will do How the 
even as it may please ye, and kiss at your j^^ 51- 
commandment, as a true knight should Gawain 
who forbears to ask for fear of displeasure." 

At that she came near and bent down 
and kissed the knight, and each com- 
mended the other to Christ, and she went 
forth from the chamber softly. 

Then Sir Gawain arose and called his 
chamberlain and chose his garments, and 

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when he was ready he gat him forth to 
Mass, and then went to meat, and made 
merry all day till the rising of the moon, 
and never had a knight fairer lodging than 
had he with those two noble ladies, the 
elder and the vounger. 

And even the lord of the land chased the 
hinds through holt and heath till eventide, 
and then with much blowing of bugles and 
baying of hounds they bore the game 
homeward ; and by the time daylight was 
done all the folk had returned to that fair 
castle. And when the lord and Sir Gawain 
met together, then were they both well 
pleased. The lord commanded them all to 
assemble in the great hall, and the ladies to 
descend with their maidens, and there, 
before them all, he bade the men fetch in 
the spoil of the day's hunting, and he 
called unto Gawain, and counted the tale 
of the beasts, and showed them unto him, 
and said, " What think ye of this game. Sir 
Knight ? Have I deserved of ye thanks for 
my woodcraft ? " 

" Yea, I wis," quoth the other, " here is 
the fairest spoil I have seen this seven year 
in the winter season." 

"And all this do I give ye, Gawain," 

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quoth the host, *' for by accord of covenant How the 
ye may claim it as your own." ^*^*?f^ 

"That is sooth,^ quoth the other, ccj was kept 
grant vou that same ; and I have ^irly 
won tnis within walls, and with as good 
will do I yield it to ye." With that he 
clasped his hands round the lord's neck and 
kissed him as courteously as he might. 
" Take ye here mv spoils, no more have I 
won J ye should have it freely, though it 
were greater than this." 

"'Tisgood," said the host, "gramercy 
thereof. Yet were I fein to know where 
ye won this same fevour, and if it were by 
your own wit ? " 

"Nay," answered Gawain, "that was 
not in the bond. Ask me no more : ye 
have taken what was yours by right, be 
content with that." 

They laughed and jested together, and 
sat them down to supper, where they were 
served with many dainties ; and after 
supper they sat by the hearth, and wine 
was served out to them ; and oft in their 
jesting they promised to observe on the 
morrow the same covenant that they had 
made before, and whatever chance might 
betide to exchange their spoil, be it much 

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5« Mit ^atoain anb 

or little, when thcjr met at night. Thus 
they renewed their bargain before the 
whole court, and then the night-drink was 
served, and each courteously took leave of 
the other and gat him to bed. 
0£ the By the time the cock had crowed thrice 
^!^l the lord of the castle had left his bed ; 
htmting Mass was sung and meat fitly served. The 
folk were forth to the wood ere the day 
broke, with hound and horn they rode over 
the plain, and uncoupled their dogs among 
the thorns. Soon they struck on 5ie scent, 
and the hunt cheered on the hounds who 
were first to seize it, urging them with 
shouts. The others hastened to the cry, 
forty at once, and there rose such a clamour 
from the pack that the rocks rang again. 
The huntsmen spurred them on with 
shouting and blasts of the horn ; and the 
hounds drew together to a thicket betwixt 
the water and a high crag in the cliflF 
beneath the hillside. There where the 
rough rock fell ruggedly they, the hunts- 
men, fared to the finding, and cast about 
round the hill and the thicket behind them. 
The knights wist well what beast was 
within, and would drive him forth with 
the bloodhounds. And as they beat the 

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f 9e Cteen (gnie^t S3 

bushes, suddenly over the beaters there 
rushed forth a wondrous great and fierce 
boar, long since had he left the herd to 
roam by himself. Grunting, he cast many 
to the ground, and fled forth at his best 
speed, without more mischief. The men 
hallooed loudly and cried, "/foy/ Hay!^ 
and blew the horns to urge on the hounds, 
and rode swiftly after the boar. Many a 
time did he turn to bay and tare the 
hounds, and they yelped, and howled 
shrilly. Then the men made ready their 
arrows and shot at him, but the points 
were turned on his thick hide, and the 
barbs would not bite upon him, for the 
shafts shivered in pieces, and the head but 
leapt again wherever it hit. 

But when the boar felt the stroke of the 
arrows he waxed mad with rage, and turned 
on the hunters and tare many, so that, 
aflFrightened, they fled before him. But 
the lord on a swift steed pursued him, 
blowing his bugle ; as a gallant knight he 
rode through the woodland chasing the 
boar till the sun grew low. 

So did the hunters this day, while Sir 
Gawain lay in his bed lapped in rich gear ; 
and the lady forgatfnot to salute him, for 

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S4 M^^ iBanain anl 

early was she at his side, to cheer his 


Of the She came to the bedside and looked on 

^^^*^the knight, and Gawain gave her fit 

^,^1^1^ greeting, and she greeted him again with 

ready words, and sat her bv his side and 

laughed, and with a sweet look she spoke 

to him : 

^Sir, if ye be Gawain, I think it a 
wonder that ye be so stern and cold, and 
care not for the courtesies of friendship, 
but if one teach ye to know them ye cast 
the lesson out of your mind. Ye have 
soon forgotten what I taught ye yesterday, 
by all the truest tokens that I knew ! " 

"What is that?** quoth the knight. 
" I trow I know not. If it be sooth that 
ye say, then is the blame mine own." 

" 6ut I taught ye of kissing,'* quoth the 
^r lady. ^^ Wherever a fair countenance is 
shown him, it behoves a courteous knight 
quickly to claim a kiss." 

"Nay, my dear," said Sir Gawain, 
" cease that speech ; that durst I not do 
lest I were denied, for if I were forbidden 
I wot I were wrong did I further entreat." 

" r feith," quoth the lady merrily, " ye 
may not be forbid, ye are strong enough to 

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constrain by strength an ye will, were any 
so discourteous as to give ye denial." 

"Yea, by Heaven," said Gawain, "ye 
speak well ; but threats profit little in tne 
land where I dwell, and so with a gift that 
is given not of good will ! I am at your 
commandment to kiss when ye like, to 
take or to leave as ye list.'* 

Then the lady bent her down and 
kissed him courteously. 

And as they spake together she said, How the 
** I would learn somewhat from ye, an ye J*^ 
would not be wroth, for young ye bare and beguile 
fair, and so courteous and knightly as ye Sh* Ga^ 
are known to be, the head of all chivalry, ^^^ 
and versed in all wisdom of love and war — ^fds of 
*tis ever told of true knights how they love 
adventured their lives for their true love, 
and endured hardships for her favours, and 
avenged her with valour, and eased her 
sorrows, and brought joy to her bower; 
and ye are the fairest knight of your time, 
and your fame and your honour are every- 
where, yet I have sat by ye here twice, 
and never a word have 1 heard of love ! 
Ye who are so courteous and skilled in 
such love ought surely to teach one so 
young and unskilled some little craft of 

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$6 g^it (Bdwdin dnb 

true love ! Why arc yc so unlearned who 
art otherwise so famous? Or is it that 
ye deemed me unworthy to hearken to your 
teaching ? For shame, Sir Knight ! I 
come hither alone and sit at your side to 
learn of ye some skill j teach me of your 
wit, while my lord is from home." 

" In good faith," quoth Gawain, " great 
is my joy and my profit that so fair a lady as 
ye are should deign to come hither, and 
trouble ye with so poor a man, and make 
sport with your knight with kindly counte- 
nance, it pleaseth me much. But that I, in 
my turn, should take it upon me to tell of 
love and such like matters to ye who know 
more by half, or a hundred fold, of such 
craft than I do, or ever shall in all my life- 
time, by my troth 'twere folly indeed ! I 
will work your will to the best of my 
might as I am bounden, and evermore wiU 
I be your servant, so help me Christ ! ** 

Then often with guile she questioned 
tliat knight that she might win him to woo 
her, but he defended himselr so fairly that 
none might in any wise blame him, and 
naught but bliss and harmless jesting was 
there between them. They laughed and 
talked together till at last she kissed him. 

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and craved her leave of him, and went her 

Then the knight arose and went forth 
to Mass, and afterward dinner was served 
and he sat and spake with the ladies all 
day. But the lord of the castle rode ever 
over the land chasing the wild boar, that 
fled through the thickets, slaying the best 
of his hounds and breaking their backs in 
sunder; till at last he was so weary he 
might run no longer, but made for a hole 
in a mound by a rock. He got the mound 
at his back and faced the hounds, whetting 
his white tusks and foaming at the mouth. 
The huntsmen stood aloof, fearing to draw 
nigh him; so many of them had been 
already wounded that they were loth to be 
torn with his tusks, so fierce he was and 
mad with rage. At length the lord himself How the 
came up, and saw the beast at bay, and the ^uil^^^** 
men standing aloof. Then quickly he 
sprang to the ground and drew out a bright 
blade, and waded through the stream to the 

When the beast was aware of the knight 
with weapon in hand, he set up his bristles 
and snorted loudly, and many feared for 
their lord lest he should be slain. Then 

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the boar leapt upon the knight so that 
beast and man were one atop of the other 
in the water j but the boar had the worst 
of it, for the man had marked, even as he 
sprang, and set the point of his brand to the 
beast's chest, and drove it up to the hilt, so 
that the heart was split in twain, and the 
boar fell snarling, and was swept down by 
the water to where a hundred hounds seized 
on him, and the men drew him to shore 
for the dogs to slay. 

Then was there loud blowing of horns 
and baying of hounds, the huntsmen smote 
off the boar's head, and hung the carcase 
by the four feet to a stout pole, and so 
went on their way homewards. The head 
they bore before the lord himself, who had 
slain the beast at the ford by force of his 
strong hand. 

It seemed him o'er long ere he saw Sir 
Gawain in the hall, and he called, and the 
guest came to take that which fell to his 
share. And when he saw Gawain the lord 
laughed aloud, and bade them call the 
ladies and the household together, and he 
showed them the game, and told them the 
tale, how they hunted the wild boar 
through the woods, and of his length and 

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f 9e Ctttn (ginii^i S9 

breadth and height ; and Sir Gawain com- 
mended his deeds and praised him for his 
valour, well proven, for so mighty a beast 
had he never seen before. 

Then they handled the huge head, and 
the lord said aloud, ** Now, Gawain, this Thekcep' 
game is your own by sure covenant, as ye J^y^^^^t* 
right well know/* 

**'Tis sooth,*' quoth the knight, "and 
as truly will I give ye all I have gained.** 
He took the host round the neck, and 
kissed him courteously twice. " Now are 
we quits,** he said, " this eventide, of all 
the covenants that we made since I came 

And the lord answered, " By S. Giles, ye 
are the best I know ; ye will be rich in a 
short space if ye drive such bargains ! ** 

Then they set up the tables on trestles, 
and covered them with fair cloths, and lit 
waxen tapers on the walls. The knights 
sat and were served in the hall, and much 
game and glee was there round the hearth, 
with many songs, both at supper and after; 
song of Christmas, and new carols, with 
all the mirth one may think of. And ever 
that lovely lady sat by the knight, and 
with still stolen looks made such feint of 

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pleasing him, that Gawain marvelled 
much, and was wroth with himself, but 
he could not for his courtesy return her 
ftur glances, but dealt with her cunningly, 
however she might strive to wrest the 

When they had tarried in the hall so 
long as it seemed them good, they turned 
to the inner chamber and the wide hearth- 
place, and there they drank wine, and the 
host proffered to renew the covenant for 
New Year's Eve ; but the knight craved 
leave to depart on the morrow, for it was 
nigh to the term when he must fulfil his 
pledge. But the lord would withhold him 
from so doing, and prayed him to tarry, 
and said, 

"As I am a true knight I swear my 
troth that ye shall come to the Green 
Chapel to achieve your task on New Year's 
morn, long before prime. Therefore abide 
ye in your bed, and I will himt in this 
wood, and hold ye to the covenant to 
exchange with me against all the spoil I 
may bnng hither. For twice have I tried 
ye, and found ye true, and the morrow 
shall be the third time and the best. Make 
we merry now while we may, and think 

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i9t Ctttn (ginii^f 6i 

on joy, for misfortune may take a man 
whensoever it wills." 

Then Gawain granted his request, and 
they brought them drink, and they gat 
them with Ughts to bed. 

Sir Gawain lay and slept softly, but the Of the 
lord, who was keen on woodcraft, wasjfe^ 
afoot early. After Mass he and his men hunting 
ate a morsel, and he asked for his steed ; 
all the knights who should ride with him 
were already mounted before the hall 

'Twas a fair frosty morning, for the sun 
rose red in ruddv vapour, and the welkin 
was clear of clouas. The hunters scattered 
them by a forest side, and the rocks rang 
again with the blast of their horns. Some 
came on the scent of a fox, and a hound 
gave tongue ; the huntsmen shouted, and 
the pack followed in a crowd on the trail. 
The fox ran before them, and when they 
saw him they pursued him with noise and 
much shouting, and he wound and turned 
through many a thick grove, often cowering 
and hearkening in a hedge. At last by a 
little ditch he leapt out of a spinney, stole 
away slily by a copse path, and so out of 
the wood and away from the hounds. But 

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62 g^it Canain anb 

he went, ere he wist, to a chosen tiyst, 
and three started forth on him at once, so 
he must needs double back, and betake him 
to the wood again. 

Then was it jovful to hearken to the 
hounds ; when all the pack had met 
together and had sight of their game they 
made as loud a din as if all the lofty clifik 
had fellen clattering together. The hunts- 
men shouted and threatened, and followed 
close upon him so that he might scarce 
escape, but Reynard was wily, and he 
turned and doubled upon them, and led the 
lord and his men over the hills, now on 
the slopes, now in the vales, while the 
knight at home slept through the cold 
morning beneath his costly curtains. 
How the But the fair lady of the castle rose 
^Y^**g* betimes, and clad herself in a rich mantle 
^ihixd ^^^^ reached even to the ground, left her 
time to throat and her fair neck bare, and was 
Sir Ga^ bordered and lined with costly furs. On 
^ her head she wore no golden circlet, but a 
network of precious stones, that gleamed 
and shone through her tresses in clusters of 
twenty together. Thus she came into the 
chamber, closed the door after her, and set 
open a window, and called to him gaily. 

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f9e Ctttn (Jtnig^f 63 

**Sir Knight, how may ye sleep? The 
morning is so fair." 

Sir Gawain was deep in slumber, and in 
his dream he vexed him much for the 
destiny that should befall him on the 
morrow, when he should meet the knight 
at the Green Chapel, and abide his blow ; 
but when the lady spake he heard her, and 
came to himself, and roused from his dream 
and answered swiftlv. The lady came 
laughing, and kissed him courteously, and 
he welcomed her fittingly with a cheerful 
countenance. He saw her so glorious and 
gaily dressed, so faultless of features and 
complexion, that it warmed his heart to 
look upon her. 

They spake to each other smiling, and 
all was bliss and good cheer between them. 
They exchanged fair words, and much 
happiness was therein, yet was there a gulf 
between them, and she might win no more 
of her knight, for that gallant prince 
watched well his words — he would neither 
take her love, nor frankly refuse it. He 
cared for his courtesy, lest he be deemed 
churlish, and yet more for his honour lest 
he be traitor to his host. " God forbid,** 
quoth he to himself, ^^that it should so 

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64 giit Can^t^in an^ 

befall.'' Thus with courteous words did 
he set aside all the special speeches that 
came from her lips. 

Then spke the lady to the knight, *' Ye 
deserve blame if ye hold not that lady who 
sits beside ye above all else in the world, if 
ye have not already a love whom ye hold 
dearer, and like better, and have sworn 
such firm &ith to that lady that ye care not 
to loose it — and that am I now fain to 
believe. And now I pray ye straitly that 
ye tell me that in truth, and hide it not.'' 

And the knight answered, " By S.John " 
(and he smiled as he spake) ^^ no such love 
have I, nor do I think to have yet awhile." 

" That is the worst word I may hear," 

quoth the lady, ^^ but in sooth I have mine 

answer ^ kiss me now courteously, and I 

will go hence; I can but moiu'n as a 

maiden that loves much." 

The lady Sighing, she stooped down and kissed 

wotfld him, and then she rose up and spake as she 

a parting stood, " Now, dear, at our parting do me 

gift from this grace : give me some gift, if it were 

Gawain but thjr glove, that I may bethink me of 

my knight, and lessen my mourning." 

" Now, I wis," quoth the knight, " I 
would that I had here the most precious 

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i9t ^tttn d^nis^i 65 

thing that I possess on earth that I might 
leave ye as love-token, great or small, for 
ye have deserved forsooth more reward 
than I might give ye. But it is not to 
your honour to have at this time a glove 
for reward as gift from Gawain, and I am 
here on a strange errand, and have no man 
with me, nor mails with goodly things — 
that mislikes me much, lady, at this time ; 
but each man must fare as he is taken, if 
for sorrow and ill." 

** Nay, knight highly honoured," quoth She 
that lovesome lady, " though I have naught ^^{^i^ 
of yours, yet shall ye have somewhat of^^^^^^^ 
mine." With that she reached him a 
ring of red gold with a sparkling stone 
therein, that shone even as the sun (wit 
ye well, it was worth many marks) ; but 
the knight refused it, and spake readily, 

^^I will take no gift, lady, at this time. 
I have none to give, and none will I take." 

She prayed him to take it, but he refused 
her prayer, and sware in sooth that he 
would not have it. 

The lady was sorely vexed, and said. Or her 
** If ye refuse my ring as too costly, that if^^« 
ye will not be so highfy beholden to me^ I 
Will give foM thy girdle as li lessor gift, 


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66 g^it (Bawdin dnb 

With that she loosened a lace that was 
fastened at her side, knit upon her kirtle 
under her mantle. It was wrought of 

freen silk, and gold, only braided by the 
ngers, and that she offered to the knight, 
and besought him though it were of little 
worth that he would take it, and he said 
nay, he would touch neither gold nor gear 
ere God give him grace to achieve the 
adventure for which he had come hither. 
**And therefore, I pray ye, displease ye 
not, and ask me no longer, for I may not 
grant it. I am dearly beholden to ye for 
the favour ye have shown me, ^d ever, in 
heat and cold, will I be vour true servant." 
The "Now,** said the laay, "jre refuse this 
▼iittte of silk, for it is simple in itself, and so it 
the ginlle seems, indeed ; lo, it is small to look upon 
and less in cost, but whoso knew the virtue 
that is knit therein he would, peradven- 
ture, value it more highly. For whatever 
knight is girded with this green lace, while 
he bears it knotted about him there is no 
man under heaven can overcome him, for 
he may not be slain for any magic on 

Then Gavirain bethought him, and it 
Came into his heart that this were H jewel 

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f 9e Ctttn (giniq^f ^i 

for the jeopardy that awaited him when he 
came to the Green Chapel to seek the 
return blow — could he so order it that he 
should escape unslain, 'twere a craft worth 
trying- Then he bare with her chiding, 
and let her say her say, and she pressed the 
girdle on him and prayed him to take it, 
and he granted her prayer, and she gave it How Sir 
him with good will, and besought him for p*^^^ 
her sake never to reveal it but to hide it gif^Ile 
loyally from her lordj and the knight 
agreed that never should any man know it, 
save they two alone. He thanked her 
often and heartily, and she kissed him for 
the third time. 

Then she took her leave of him, and 
when she was gone Sir Gawain arose, and 
dad him in rich attire, and took the girdle, 
and knotted it round him, and hid it 
beneath his robes. Then he took his way 
to the chapel, and sought out a priest 
privily and prayed him to teach him better 
how his soul might be saved when he 
should eo hence; and there he shrived 
him, and showed his misdeeds, both great 
and small, and besought mercy and craved 
absolution ; and the priest assoiled him, 
and set him as clean as if Doomsday had 

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68 gUt ^anain an'b 

been on the morrow. And afterwards Sir 
Gawain made him merry with the ladies, 
with carols, and all kinds of joy, as never 
he did but that one day, even to nightfall; 
and all the men marvelled at him, and 
said that never since he came thither had 
he been so merry. 
The Meanwhile the lord of the castle was 
^^^^^broad chasing the fox; awhile he lost 
' him, and as he rode through a spinny he 
heard the hounds near at hand, and Rey- 
nard came creeping through a thick grove, 
with all the pack at his heels. Then the 
lord drew out his shining brand, and cast 
it at the beast, and the fox swerved aside 
for the sharp edge, and would have doubled 
back, but a hound was on him ere he 
might turn, and right before the horse's 
feet they all fell on him, and worried him 
fiercely, snarling the while. 

Then the lord leapt fix>m his saddle, and 
caught the fox from the jaws, and held it 
aloft over his head, and hallooed loudly, and 
many brave hounds bayed as they beheld it; 
and the hunters hied them thither, blow- 
ing their horns ; all that bare bugles blew 
them at once, and all the others shouted. 
*Twa8 the merriest meeting that ever 

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f 9e Ctttn dtnis^f 69 

men heard, the clamour that was raised at 
the death of the fox. Thev rewarded the 
boimds, stroking them and rubbing their 
heads, and took Reynard and stripped him 
of his coat; then blowing their horns, 
they turned them homewards, for it was 
night nighfalL 

The lord was gladsome at his return, 
and found a bright fire on the hearth, 
and the knight beside it, the good Sir 
Gawain, who was in joyous mood for the 
pleasure he had had with the ladies. He 
wore a robe of blue, that reached even to 
the ground, and a surcoat richlv furred, 
that became him well. A hooa like to 
the surcoat fell on his shoulders, and all 
alike were done about with fur. He met 
the host in the midst of the floor, and How Sir 
jestinRy he greeted him, and said, " Now ?^**^ 
shall I be first to fulfil our covenant which aU%e 
we made together when there was no lack covenant 
of wine.*' Then he embraced the knight, 
and kissed him thrice, as solemnly as he 

"Of a sooth," quoth the other, "ye 
have good luck in the matter of this 
covenant, if ye made a good exchange ! ^ 

"Yea, it matters naught of the ex- 

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70 Mit <B(^wain anb 

change,'' quoth Gawain, ^ since what I 
owe is swiftly paid." 

"Marry,** said the other, "mine is 
behind, for I have hunted all this day, and 
naught have I got but this foul fox-skin, 
and that is but poor pajrment for three 
such kisses as ye have here given me/' 

"Enough," quoth Sir Gawain, " I thank 
ye, by the Rood." 

Then the lord told them of his hunting, 
and how the fox had been slain. 

With mirth and minstrelsy, and dainties 
at their will, they made them as merry as 
a folk well might till 'twas time for them 
to sever, for at last they must needs betake 
them to their beds. Then the knight 
took his leave of the lord, and thanked him 

" For the ftur sojourn that I have had 
here at this high feast may the High King 
give ye honour. I give ye myself, as one 
of your servants, if ye so like j for I must 
needs, as you know, go hence with the 
mom, and ye will give me, as ye promised, 
a guide to show me the way to the Green 
Chapel, an God will suffer me on New 
Year's Day to deal the doom of my weird." 

"By my faith," quoth the host, "all 

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f 9e Cteen (jBUnisf^i 71 

that ever I promised, that shall I keep 

with good will." Then he gave him a 

servant to set him in the way, and lead 

him by the downs, that he should have no 

need to ford the stream, and should fare by 

the shortest road through the groves ; and 

Gawain thanked the lord for the honour 

done him. Then he would take leave of How Sir 

the ladies, and courteously he kissed them, f^yf ^ 

y \ • ^u ^ ," took leave 

and spake, praymg them to receive his^f^is 

thanks, and they made like reply ; then host 

with many sighs they commended him to 

Christ, and he departed courteously from 

that folk. Each man that he met he 

thanked him for his service and his solace, 

and the pains he had been at to do his 

will ; and each found it as hard to part 

from the knight as if he had ever dwelt 

with him. 

Then they led him with torches to his 

chamber, and brought him to his bed to 

rest. That he slept soundly I may not 

say, for the morrow gave him much to 

think on. Let him rest awhile, for he 

was near that which he sought, and if ye 

will but listen to me I will tell ye how it 

fered with him thereafter. 

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§kit Camain an^ 

therewith. The clouds cast the cold to 
the earth, with enough of the north to slay 
them that lacked clothing. The snow 
drave smartly, and the whisding wind blew 
from the heights, and made great drifts in 
the valleys. The knight, lying in his bed, 
listened, for though his eyes were shut, he 
might sleep but little, and hearkened every 
cock that crew. 

He arose ere the day broke, by the light 
of a lamp that burned in his chamber, and 
called to his chamberlain, bidding him bring 
his armour and saddle his steed. The 
other ^t him up, and fetched his garments, 
and robed Sir Gkiwain. 

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i^e (Kreen (§in%s^i 73 

First he clad him in his clothes to keep The 
off the cold, and then in his harness, which gbing of 
was well and fairly kept. Both hauberk ^^^^^^l^j 
and plates were well burnished, the rings 
of the rich byrny freed from rust, and all as 
fresh as at first, so that the knight was ^n 
to thank them. Then he did on each 
piece, and bade them bring his steed, while 
he put the fkirest raiment on himself ; his 
coat with its fair cognizance, adorned with 
precious stones upon velvet, with broidered 
seams, and all furred within with costly 
skins. And he left not the lace, the lad/s 
gift, that Gawain forgot not, for his own 
good. When he had girded on his sword 
he wrapped the gift twice about him, 
swathed around his waist. The girdle of 
green silk set gaily and well upon the royal 
red doth, rich to behold, but the knight 
ware it not for pride of the pendants, 
polished though they were with fair gold 
that gleamed brightly on the ends, but to 
save himself from sword and knife, when 
it behoved him to abide his hurt without 
question. With that the hero went forth, 
and thanked that kindly folk full often. 

Then was Gringalet ready, that was 
great and strong, and had been well cared 

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74 Mit Catoain anb 

for and tended in every wise ; in fair con- 
dition was that proud steed, and fit for a 
i'ourney. Then Gawain went to him, and 
ooked on his coat, and said by his sooth, 
^^ There is a folk in this place that thinketh 
on honour ; much joy may they have, and 
the lord who maintains them, and may all 
sood betide that lovely lady all her life 
long. Since they for chanty cherish a 

fuest, and hold honour in their hands, may 
[e who holds the heaven on high requite 
How Sir them, and also ye all. And if I might live 
Gawain any while on earth, I would give ye full 
fj^ reward, readily, if so I might. Then he 
from the set foot in the stirrup and bestrode his 
castle steed, and his squire gave him his shield, 
which he laid on his shoulder. Then he 
smote Gringalet with his golden spurs, and 
the steed pranced on the stones and would 
stand no longer. 

By that his man was mounted, who bare 
his spear and lance, and Gawain quoth, 
^^ I commend this castle to Christ, may He 
give it ever good fortune." Then the 
drawbridge was let down, and the broad 
gates unbarred and opened on both sides ; 
the knight crossed himself, and passed 
through the gateway, and praised the 

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f 9e Cteen dtnig^f 75 

porter, who knelt before the prince, and 
gave him good-day, and commended him 
to God. Thus the knight went on his 
way with the one man who should guide 
him to that dread place where he should 
receive rueful payment. 

The two went by hedges where the 
boughs were bare, and climbed the cliffs 
where the cold clings. Naught fell from 
the heavens, but *twas ill beneath them; 
mist brooded over the moor and hung on 
the mountains ; each hill had a cap, a 
great cloak, of mist. The streams foamed 
and bubbled between their banks, dashing 
sparkling on the shores where they shelved 
downwards. Rugged and dangerous was 
the way through the woods, till it was time 
for the sun-rising. Then were they on a 
high hill ; the snow lay white beside them, 
and the man who rode with Gawain drew 
rein by his master. 

" Sir," he said, " I have brought ye xhe 
hither, and now ye are not far from the squire's 
place that ye have sought so specially, warning 
But I will tell ye for sooth, since I know 
/e well, and ye are such a knight as I well 
lOve, woidd ye follow my counsel ye woidd 
fare the better. The place whither ye go 

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76 giit C^toain an'b 

Of the is accounted full perilous, for he who liveth 
kfUriit of in tha( waste is the worst on earth, for he 
Chapel 1^ strong and fierce, and loveth to deal 
mighty blows ; taller is he than any man 
on earth, and greater of frame than any four 
in Arthur's court, or in any other. And 
this is his custom at the Green Chapel; 
there may no man pass by that place, how- 
ever proud his arms, but he does him to 
death by force of his hand, for he is a 
discourteous knight, and shews no mercy. 
Be he churl or chaplain who rides by that 
chapel, monk or mass priest, or any man 
else, he thinks it as pleasant to slay them 
as to pass alive himself. Therefore, I tell 
ye, as sooth as ye sit in saddle, if ye come 
there and that knight know it, ye shall be 
slain, though ye had twenty lives ; trow 
me that truly! He has dwelt here full 
long and seen many a combat ; ye may 
not defend ye against his blows. There- 
fore, good Sir Gawain, let the man be, and 
get ye away some other road ; for God's 
sake seek ye another land, and there may 
Christ speed ye ! And I will hie me home 
again, and I promise ye further that I will 
swear by God and the saints, or any other 
oath ye please, that I will keep counsel 

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i9e &teen O^nig^f 77 

faithfully, and never let any wit the tale 
that ye fled for fear of any man.*' 

"Gramercy," quoth Gawain, but ill-* Sir Ga^ 
pleased. " Good fortune be his who ^^^ ^ 
wishes me good, and that thou wouldst ^^^ 
keep laith with me I will believe ^ but 
didst thou keep it never so truly, an I 
passed here and fled for fear as thou sayest, 
then were I a coward knight, and might 
not be held guiltless. So I will to the 
chapel let chance what may, and talk with 
that man, even as I may list, whether for 
weal or for woe as fate may have it. Fierce 
though he may be in fight, yet God knoweth 
well how to save His servants.'* 

"Well," quoth the other, " now that ye 
have said so much that ye will take your 
own harm on yourself, and ve be pleased to 
lose yoxu- life, I will neither let nor keep ye. 
Have here your helm and the spear in your 
hand, and ride down this same road beside 
the rock till ye come to the bottom of the 
valley, and there look a little to the left 
hand, and ye shall see in that vale the 
chapel, and the grim man who keeps it. 
Now fare ye well, noble Gawain j for all 
the gold on earth I would not go with ye 
nor bear ye fellowship one stq;) further." 

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7^ §kit Caroain an^ 

With that the man turned his bridle into 
the wood, smote the horse with his spurs 
as hard as he could, and galloped oiF, leaving 
the knight alone. 

Quoth Gawain, "I will neither greet 
nor groan, but commend myself to God, 
andvield me to His will." 

Then the knight spurred Gringalet, and 
rode adown the path close in by a bank 
beside a grove. So he rode through the 
rough thicket, right into the dale, and 
there he halted, for it seemed him wild 
enough. No sign of a chapel coidd he see, 
but high and burnt banks on either side 
and rough rugged crags with great stones 
above. An ill-looking place he thought it. 

Then he drew in his horse and looked 
around to seek the chapel, but he saw none 
and thought it strange. Then he saw as 
it were a mound on a level space of land 
by a bank beside the stream where it ran 
swiftly, the water bubbled within as if 
boiling. The knight turned his steed to 
the mound, and lighted down and tied the 
rein to the branch of a linden ; and he 
turned to the mound and walked round it, 

Juestioning with himself what it might be. 
t had a hole at the end and at eithei" side^ 

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f^e &teen (Stnig^t 79 

and was overgrown with clumps of grass, 
and it was hofiow within as an old cave or 
the crevice of a crag ;' he knew not what 
it might be. 

" Ah," quoth Gawain, " can this be the The ftod^ 
Green Chapel ? Here might the devil sa^ JjB of *hc 
his mattins at midnight! Now 1 wis *^ 
there is wizardry here. 'Tis an ugly 
oratory, all overgrown with grass, and 
'twould well beseem that fellow in green 
to say his devotions on devil's wise. Now 
feel 1 in five wits, 'tis the foul fiend him- 
self who hath set me this tryst, to destroy 
me here ! This is a chapel of mischance : 
ill-luck betide it, 'tis the cursedest kirk 
that ever I came in ! " 

Helmet on head and lance in hand, he 
came up to the rough dwelling, when he 
heard over the high hill beyond the brook, 
as it were in a bank, a wondrous fierce 
noise, that rang in the difF as if it would 
cleave asunder, ^was as if one ground a 
scvthe on a grindstone, it whirred and 
whetted like water on a mill-wheel and 
rushed and rang, terrible to hear. 

**By God," quoth Gawain, "I trow 
that gear is preparing for the knight who 
will meet me here. Alas I naught may 

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help me, yet ahould my life be forfeit^ I 
fear not a jot ! " With that he called 
aloud. ^Who waiteth in this place to 
give me tryst ? Now is Gawain come 
hither : if any man will aught of him let 
him hasten hither now or never.** 
The com' " Stay," quoth, one on the bank above 
ingof the his head, <<and ye shall speedily have that 
j^^ which I promised ye." Yet for a while 
the noise of whetting went on ere he 
appeared, and then he came forth from a 
cave in the crag with a fell weapon, a 
Danish axe newly di^ht, wherewith to 
deal the blow. An evil head it had, four 
feet large, no less, sharply ground, and 
bound to the handle by the lace that 
gleamed brightly. And the knight himself 
was all green as before, face and foot, locks 
and beard, but now he was afoot. When 
he came to the water he would not wade 
it^ but sprang over with the pole of his 
axe, and strode boldly over the brent that 
was white with snow. 

Sir Gawain went to meet him, but he 
made no low bow. The other said, "Now, 
iair sir, one may trust thee to keep tryst. 
Thou art welcome, Gawain, to mv place. 
Thou hast timed thy coming as befits a 

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true man. ThoU knowest the covenant 
set between us : at this time twelve months 
agone thou didst take that which fell to 
thee, and I at this New Year will readily 
requite thee. We are in this valley, verily 
alone, here are no knights to sever us, do 
what we will. Have off thy helm from 
thine head, and have here thy pay ; make 
me no more talking than I did then when 
thou didst strike off my head with one 

"Nay," quoth Gawain, "by God that 
gave n^e life, I shall make no moan what- 
ever befall me, but make thou ready for the 
blow and I shall stand still and say never a 
word to thee, do as thou wilt." 

With that he bent his head and shewed 
his neck all bare, and made as if he had no 
fear, for he would not be thought a-dread. 

Then the Green Knight made him How Sir 
ready, and grasped his grim weapon to ?*J^*^ 
smite Gawain. With all his force he bore stand the 
it aloft with a mighty feint of slaying him : blow 
had it fallen as straight as he aimed he 
who was ever doughty of deed had been slain 
by the blow. But Gawain swerved aside 
as the axe came gliding down to slay him 
as he stood, and shrank a little with the 

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82 §iit ^n^fodin anb 

shoulders, for the sharp iron. The other 

heaved up the blade and rebuked the (M'ince 

with many proud words : 

Of the "Thou art not Gawain," he said, "who 

Green is held so valiant, that never feared he man 

^! by hill or vale, but thou shrinkest for fear 

pfoaches ere thou feelest hurt. Such cowardice did 

I never hear of Gawain ! Neither did / 

flinch from thy blow, or make strife in 

King Arthur's hall. My head fell to my 

feet, and yet I fled not ; but ithou didst 

wax foint of heart ere any harm befell. 

Wherefore must I be deemed the braver 


Quoth Gawain, " I shrank once, but so 
will I no more, though an my head fall on 
the stones I cannot replace it. But haste. 
Sir Knight, by thy &ith, and bring me to 
the point, deal me my destiny, and do it out 
of hand, for I will stand thee a stroke and 
move no more till thine axe have hit me — 
my troth on it.'* 

" Have at thee, then," quoth the other, 
and heaved aloft the axe with fierce mien, 
as is he were mad. He struck at him 
fiercely but wounded him not, withholding 
his hand ere it might strike him. 

Gawain abode the stroke, and flinched 

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in no limb, but stood still as a stone or the 
stump of a tree that is fast rooted in the 
rocky ground with a hundred roots. 

Then spake gaily the man in green, ^So 
now thou hast thine heart whole it behoves 
me to smite. Hold aside thy hood that 
Arthur gave thee, and keep thy neck thus 
bent lest it cover it again." 

Then Gawain said angrily, "Why talk 
on thus ? Thou dost threaten too long. 
I hope thy heart misgives thee." 

"For sooth," quoth the other, "so 
fiercely thou speakest I will no longer let 
thine errand wait its reward." Then he 
braced himself to strike, frowning with lips 
and brow, 'twas no marvel that it pleased 
but ill him who hoped for no rescue. He 
lifted the axe lightly and let it fall with the 
edge of the blade on the bare neck. Though 
he struck swiftly it hurt him no more than How the 
on the one side where it severed the skin. S^^f ^^ 
The sharp blade cut into the flesh so that dealf the 
the blood ran over his shoulder to the ground, blow 
And when the knight saw the blood stain- 
ing the snow, he sprang forth, swift-foot, 
more than a spear's length, seized his 
helmet and set it on his head, cast his 
shield over his shoulder, drew out his bright 

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H Bit Caroain an^ 

sword, and spake boldly (never since he 
was born was he half so blithe), ** Stop, Sir 
Knight, bid me no more blows. I have 
stood a stroke here without flinching, and 
if thou give me another, I shall requite 
thee, and give thee as good again. By the 
covenant made betwixt us in Arthur's hall 
but one blow falls to me here. Halt, 

Then the Green Knight drew off from 
him and leaned on his axe, setting the 
shaft on the ground, and looked on Gkiwain 
as he stood all armed and faced him fear- 
lessly — ^at heart it pleased him well. Then 
he spake merrily in a loud voice, and said 
to the knight, " Bold sir, be not so fierce, 
no man here hath done thee wrong, nor 
will • do, save by covenant, as we made at 
Arthur's court. I promised thee a blow 
and thou hast it — hold thyself well paid ! 
I release thee of all other claims. If I had 
been so minded I might perchance have 
given thee a rougher buffet. First I 
Of the menaced thee with a feigned one, and hurt 
*^^ thee not for the covenant that we made in 
the first night, and which thou didst hold 
truly. All the gain didst thou give me as 
a true man shoidd. The other feint I 

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i9c Ctcen (ginis^i 8$ 

proffered thee for the morrow : my fair wife 
kissed thee, and thou didst give me her 
kisses — for both those days I gave thee two 
blows without scathe — true man, true 
return. But the third time thou didst fiul, 
and therefore hadst thou that blow. For 
*tis mywetd thou wearest,that same woven 
girdle, my own wife wrought it, that do I 
wot for sooth. Now know I well thy 
kisses, and thy conversation, and the 
wooing of my wife, for 'twas mine own 
doing. I sent her to try thee, and in sooth 
I think thou art the most faultless knight 
that ever trode earth. As a pearl among 
white peas is of more worth than they, so 
is Gawain,i' faith, by other knights. But 
thou didst lack a little. Sir Knight, and 
wast wanting in loyalty, yet that was for 
no evil work, nor for wooing neither, but 
because thou lovedst thy life — therefore I 
blame thee the less.'* 

Then the other stood a great while, still The 
sorely angered and vexed within himself; ^»me of 
all the bl^ flew to his face, and he shrank Qawaln 
for shame as the Green Knight spake ; and 
the first words he said were, ^^ Cursed be 
ye, cowardice and covetousness, for in ye 
is the destruction of virtue.*' Then he 

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86 ||it Cato^in atib 

loosed the girdle, and gave it to the knight. 
^^ Lo, take there the isusity, may foul befall 
it ! For fear of thy blow cowardice bade 
me make friends with covetousness and 
forsake the customs of largess and loyalty, 
which befit all knights. Now am I &ulty 
and false and have been afeared: from 
treachery and untruth come sorrow and 
care. I avow to thee, Sir Knight, that I 
have ill done; do then thy will. I shall be 
more wary hereafter.*' 

Then the other laughed and said gaily, 
^ I wot I am whole of the hurt I had, and 
thou hast made such free confesrion of thy 
misdeeds, and hast so borne the penance of 
mine axe edge, that I hold thee absolved 
from that sin, and purged as clean as if 
thou hadst never sinned since thou wast 
born. And this girdle that is wrought with 
gold and green, like my raiment, do I give 
thee. Sir Gawain, that thou mayest think 
upon this chance when thou goest forth 
among princes of renown, and keep this 
for a token of the adventure of the Green 
Chapel, as it chanced between chivalrous 
knights. And thou shalt come again with 
me to my dwellin^and pass the rest of this 
teast in gladness/* Then the lord laid 

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hdd of him, and said, ^^I wot we shsA soon 
make peace with my wife, who was thy 
bitter enemy." 

**Nay, forsooth," said Sir Gawain, and 
seized his helmet and took it oiF swiftly, 
and thanked the knight: ^^I have fared 
ill, may bliss betide thee, and mav He who 
rules all things reward thee swiftly. Com- 
mend me to that courteous lady, thy fair 
wife, and to the other my honoured ladies, 
who have beguiled their knight with skilful 
craft. But 'tis no marvel if one be made 
a fool and brought to sorrow by women's 
wiles, for so was Adam belled by one, 
and Sdomon by many, and &imson all too 
soon, for Delilah dealt him his doom ; and 
David thereafter was wedded with Bath- 
sheba, which brought him much sorrow — 
if one might love a woman and believe her 
not, 'twere great gain ! And since all they 
were beguiled by women, methinks 'tis the 
less blame to me that I was misled ! But Hew Sir 
as for thy girdle, that will I take with good ^^^^ 
will, not for gain of the gold, nor for samite, j^^p ^^ 
nor silk, nor the costly pendants, neither gifdic 
for weal nor for worship, but in sign of 
my ftailty. I shall look upon it when I 
ride in renown and remind myself of the 

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88 ||it Cano^in an^ 

fault and faintness of the flesh ; and so 
when pride uplifts me for prowess of arms, 
the sight of this lace shall humble my 
heart. But one thing would I pray, if it 
displease thee not : since thou art lord of 
yonder land wherein I have dwelt, tell me 
what thy rightful name may be, and I will 
ask no more." 

How the **That will I truly," quoth the other. 
"**'^^ " Bernlak de Hautdesert am I called in 

wfoi^ this land. Morgain le Fay dwelleth in mine 
house, and through knowledge of clerkly . 
craft hath she taken many. For long time 
was she the mistress of Merlin, who knew 
well all vou knights of the court. Morgain 
the goadess is she called therefore, and 
there is none so haughty but she can bring 
him low. She sent me in this guise to 
yon fair hall to test the truth of the renown 
that is spread abroad of the valour of the 
Round Table. She taught me this marvel 
to betray your wits, to vex Guinevere and 
fright her to death by the man who spake 
with his head in his hand at the high table. 
That is she who is at home, that ancient 
lady, she is even thine aunt, Arthur's half- 
sister, the daughter of the Duchess of 
Tintagel, who afterward married King 

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f 9e (Bfreen (giniQ^i 89 

Uther. Therefore I bid thee, knight, 
come to thine aunt, and make merry in 
thine house ; my folk love thee, and I wish 
thee as well as any man on earth, by my 
faith, for thy true dealing." 

But Sir Gawain said nay, he would in 
no wise do so ; so they embraced and 
kissed, and commended each other to the 
Prince of Paradise, and parted right there, 
on the cold ground. Gawain on his steed 
rode swiftly to the king's hall, and the 
Green Knight got him whithersoever he 

Sir Gawain who had thus won grace How Sit 
of his life, rode through wild wap on Gawain 
Gringalet ; oft he lodged in a house, and ^J* ^ 
oft without, and many adventures did he Qtmelot 
have and came off victor full often, as at 
this time I cannot relate in tale. The 
hurt that he had in his neck was healed, 
he bare the shining girdle as a baldric 
bound by his side, and made fast with a 
knot 'neath his left arm, in token that he 
was taken in a fault — and thus he came in 
safety again to the court. 

Then joy awakened in that dwelling 
when the Icing knew that the good Sir 
Gawain was come, for he deemed it gain. 

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90 §kit ^Mft^in dtib 

King Arthur kissed the knight, and the 

queen also, and many valiant knights sought 

to embrace him. They asked him how he 

had fared, and he told them all that had 

chanced to him — the adventure of the 

chapel, the fashion of the knight, the love 

of the lady — ^at last of the lace. He showed 

them the wound in the neck which he won 

for his disloyalty at the hand of the knight, 

the blood flew to his face for shame as he 

told the tak. 

Sir ^^Lo, lady,** he quoth, and handled the 

^^^ lace, ««this is the bond of the blame that I 

oonics' bear in my neck, this is the harm and the 

slonofhbloss I have suffered, the cowardice and 

^*"^^ covetousness in which I was caught, the 

token of my covenant in which I was taken. 

And I must needs wear it so long as I live, 

for none may hide his harm, but undone it 

may not be, for if it hath clung to thee 

once, it may never be severed." 

Then the king comforted the knight, 

and the court laughed loudly at the tale, and 

The all made accord that the lords and the ladies 

^^^ who belonged to the Round Table, each hero 

^'^^^ i^ among them, should wear bound about him 

honoui* of a baldric of bright green for the sake of Sir 

Gawaln Qawain. And to this was agreed all the 

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^9e ^tetn (ginii^t 91 

honour of the Round Table, and he who 
ware it was honoured the more thereafter, 
as it is testified in the best book of romance. The end 
That in Arthur's days this adventure befell, ^^^^ 
the book of Brutus bears witness. For 
since that bold knight came hither first, and 
the siege and the assault were ceased at 
Troy, I wis 

Many a venture herebefore 

Hath fallen such as this : 
May He that bare the crown of thorn 

Bring us unto His bliss. 

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1. Pact 4.— >^|ra«uiM, ^^ la Jure mam** This cha- 
racterisation of Oawaiii*s brother seems to indicate that 
there was a French source at the root of this story. The 
author disdnctly tells us more than once that the tale, as 
he tells it, was vrritten in a book. M. Gaston Paris thinks 
that the direct source was an Anglo-Norman poem, now lost. 

2. Pact 10. — If any in thit hall hddi himself so hardy » 
This, the main incident of the tale, is apparently of rery 
early date. The oldest rersion we possess is that found in 
the Irish tale of the Fled Bricrend (Bricriu's feast) [edited 
and translated by the Rer. O. Henderson, M.A., Irish 
Texts Society, vol. ii.1, where the hero of the tale is the 
Irish champion, Cuchulinn. Two mediseval romances, 
the Mule sans Frein (French) and Diu KrSne ^German), 
again attribute it to Gawain; while the contmuator of 
Chretien de Troye*s Conte del Graal gives as hero a certain 
Carados, whom he represents as Arthur's nephew; and 
the prose Perceval has Lancelot. So far as the mediaeval 
versions are concerned, the original hero is undoubtedly 
Gawain ; and our poem gives the fullest and most com- 
plete form of the story we possess. In the Irbh version 
the magician is a mm/, and the abnormal size and stature 
of the Green Knight is, in all probability, the survival of 
a primitive feature. His curious colottr is a trait found 
nowhete else. In Diu KrSne we are told that the challenger 

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94 ^ofe« 

changes shtpei in a terrifying manner, bat no details are 

3. Pagb 19. — For Title was over-patu This passage, 
descriptive of the flight of the year, should be espedally 
noticed. Combined with other passages — the dcKription 
of Oawain*s journey, the early morning hunts, the dawning 
of New Year's Day, and the ride to the Green Chapel — 
they indicate a knowledge of Nature, and an observant eyt 
for her moods, unconunon among mediseval poets. It is 
usual enough to find graceful and charming descriptions of 
spring and early summer — an appreciation of M^ in 
especial, when the summer courts were held, is part of the 
stock-in-trade of mediaeval romanoen—bot a sympathy 
with the year in all its changes is far rarer, and certainly 
deserves to be specially reckoned to the credit of this 
nameless writer. 

4. Pags 22. — Ftnt a rick carpet was stretched en the 
fteor. The description of the arming of Oawain b rather 
more detailed in the original, but some of the minor 
points are not easy to understand, the identification of 
sundry of the pieces of armour being doubtful. 

5. Pack 24. — The pemtangfe fainted thereupon in gleaming 
gold, I do not remember Uiat the pentangk is elsewhere 
attributed to Gawain. He often bears a red shield ; but 
the blazon varies. Indeed, the heraldic devices borne by 
Arthur's knights are distracttngly chaotic — their legends 
are older than the science of heraldrv, and no one has 
done for them the good ofiice that the compiler of the 
Thidrek Saga has rendered to hb Teutonic heroes. 

6. Pack 26.— TAr fTtldemeu of fTtrral. This is in 
Cheshire. Sir F. Madden suggests that the forest which 
forms the final stage of Gawain's journey is that of 
Inglewood, in Cumberland. The geography here is far 
clearer than is often the case in such descriptions. 

7. Paoi 29. — 'Twos the fairest castle that ever a knight 
owned. Here, again, I have omitted some of the deuils of 
the original, the architectural terms lackbg identification. 

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3^ofe0 95 

8. Page 43.— ^Pxrl bUut of tke bugU fired firtk to the 
field. The account of each day's hunting contains a 
number of obsolete terms and details of m>odcraft, not 
^Ycn in fiill. The meaning of some has been lost^ and 
the minute description of skinning and dismembering the 
game would be disdnctly repulsive to the general reader. 
They are valuable for a student of the history of the 
English sport, but interfere with the progress of the story. 
The fact that the author devotes so much space to them 
seems to indicate that he lived in the country and was 
keenlv interested in field sports. (Gottfried von Strass- 
bourg's TrietoH contains a similar and almost more detailed 

9. Page 6$,^^Jwm give thee wf girdU. This magic 
^rdle, which confers invulnerability on its owner, is a 
noticeable feature of our story. It is found nowhere else 
in this connection, yet in other romances we find that 
Gawain possesses a girdle with similar powers (cf., my 
Legend of Sir Gawain^ Chap. IX.). Such a Ulisman was 
also owned by Cuchulinn, the Irish hero, who has many 
points of contact with Gawain. It seems not improbable 
that this was also an old feature of the story. I have 
commented, in the Introduction, on the lady's persistent 
wooing of Gawain, and need not repeat the remarks here. 
The Celtic Lty of the Great Fool (Amadam Mor) presents 
some curious points of contact with our story, which may, 
however, well be noted here. In the Lay the hero is 
mysteriously deprived of his legs> through the draught from 
a cup profifered by a Gruaeach or magician. He comes to 
a casde, the lord of which goes out hunting, leaving his 
wife in the care of the Great Fool, who is to allow no 
man to enter. He falls asleep, and a young knight arrives 
and kisses the host's wife. The Great Fool, awakmg, 
refuses to allow the intruder to depart; and, in spite of 
threats and blandishments, insists on detaining him till the 
husband returns. Finally, the stranger reveals himself as 
the host in another shape \ he is also the Gruagach^ who 

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9^ (l^ofee 

deprived the hero of his limbty and the Grett Fool's 
brother. He has only intended to test the jftnadan Mor's 
fidelity. A curious point in connection vrith this story is 
tiiat it possesses a prose opening which shows a marked 
affinity with the " Perceval ** afimctu That the Perceval 
and Gawain stories early became connected is certam, but 
what is the precise connection between them and the 
Celtic Lay b not clear. Jn its prewit firm the latter b 
certainly posterior to the Grail romances, but it is quite 
possible uat the matter with which it deals represents a 
tradition older than the Arthurian story. 

10. Pagi 88. — Morgam U Fay^ who dvfelUtk m my home. 
The enmity between Morgain le Fay and Guinevere, 
which is here stated to have been the motif of the 
enchantment, is no invention of the author, but is found 
in the Merlin^ probably the earliest of the Arthurian trose 
romances. In a later version of our story, a poem, written 
in ballad form, and contained m the ** Percy** MS., 
Morgain does not appear; her place is taken by an old 
witch, mother to the lady, but the enchantment b still 
due to her spells. In this later form the knight bears the 
curious name of Sir BrtdhedMe» That given in our 
romance, Bemlak de Hautdeurtj seems to point to the 
original French source of the story. (It b curious that 
Morgain should here be represented as extremely old, 
while Arthur b still in his first youth. There is evidently 
a discrepancy or mbunderstanding of the source here.) 

11. Pagi 90. — A baldric of bright green^fir sake of Sir 
Gawain. The later version connects this lace with that 
worn by the knights of the Bath; but thb latter was 
ivhite^ not green. The knights wore it on the left shoulder 
till they had done some gallant deed, or till some nobk 
lady took it off for them. 

Printtd by BALLANTYNB, Hanson 6* Co. 
London &> Edinbuish 

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